Adults living with children are not at an increased risk of catching Covid - according to new research

Adults living in a household with children have been found to not be at a noticeably increased risk of contracting Covid (Photo: Shutterstock)
Adults living in a household with children have been found to not be at a noticeably increased risk of contracting Covid (Photo: Shutterstock)

Adults living in a household with children have been found to not be at a noticeably increased risk of contracting Covid.

Adults who lived with children in England during the pandemic’s first wave were found to not be at any higher risk, and during the second wave they were only slightly more at risk of coronavirus than those who lived without them, according to a new study.

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Meanwhile, a separate study on the same topic in Scotland also found that adults living with children were at no greater risk of testing positive for coronavirus, even when schools were open last year.

‘We determined the risks for adults who lived with children of pre-school and primary school age, secondary school age, or both’

Children in England have now been back at school for two weeks, but the peer-reviewed study - published in the British Medical Journal - found no evidence of a noticeably increased risk of coronavirus infection during the first wave between February and August, compared with adults who do not live with children.

The study was led by the electronic health records research group at the London School of Hygiene and Tropical Medicine.

There was a small increased risk of infection and hospitalisation for those aged 65 and under who lived with school-aged children between September and December last year, but the study found that they were no more likely to be admitted to intensive care or die than those who lived without children.

The research was based on used primary care data for 12 million adults aged 18 and over, and was linked to hospital and intensive care admissions and death records in England during both waves of the Covid pandemic.

The study recorded the presence and age of any children in each household, as well as factors known to be associated with severe illness from Covid, such as weight, sex and age.

The BMJ said: “For, separating, the first and second waves of the UK pandemic, we determined the risks for adults who lived with children of pre-school and primary school age, secondary school age, or both, compared to adults who did not live with children.”

‘Evidence of a potentially interesting protective effect that young children may have’

In Scotland, research led by the University of Glasgow in partnership with Public Health Scotland also found that adults living with children were at no greater risk of testing positive for Covid than those living in a household without children.

The study involved more than 300,000 adults and also suggested that the risk of testing positive with Covid was actually lower for adults living in a household with a child up to the age of 11, than it was for those without young children.

The risk then even lower still for adults who lived in households with two or more children under the age of 11.

Researchers used Scotland-wide data of all NHS Scotland healthcare workers and their household contacts between March and October 2020, in order to examine what impact living with young children might have on the risk of contracting Covid.

Scientists from the study also believe the findings provide evidence that children may actually have a protective effect against coronavirus infection in their households.

Dr David McAllister of the University of Glasgow, lead author of the study, said: “This study provides new evidence of a potentially interesting protective effect that young children may have on the rest of their household.

“Any protective effect of children on Covid-19 rate and severity in their household contacts would seem likely to involve cross-reactive immunity to endemic coronavirus infections acquired outside the home – for instance at nursery or school.

“Our study highlights that more research is needed to understand if young children are conferring some protection to those around them,” added Dr McAllister.