These sisters both had COVID-19. One had it much worse

Story by CBC Kids News • 2021-02-23 16:45

Most kids recover quickly

Four months ago, sisters Emily and Alyssa Smyth had COVID-19.

Both girls, who are from Orangeville, Ontario, had very different experiences with the illness.

Emily, 13, had a cough and stuffy nose for a few days.

Alyssa, 11, had it worse.

A girl skates outside

Alyssa Smyth still feels the effects of COVID-19. (Image credit: CBC)

“It started … like a bad head cold,” she said. “I had a bit of difficulty breathing.”

A few days later, she got a rash and hives.

That’s when Alyssa, who has asthma, went to the hospital.

After some tests, doctors determined it wasn’t affecting her organs, so she was able to go home.

“It’s not really scary for me because I've been [to the hospital] so many times because of my asthma,” she said.

Now, months later, she still has side effects.

Most kids get mild cases of COVID-19

Although millions of people around the world have had COVID-19, including kids, most young people experience mild symptoms and rarely need to be in hospital to get better.

“I've seen hundreds of kids with COVID and the vast majority have all done well,” said Dr. Fatima Kakkar, an infectious disease specialist in Montreal.

Many kids are even asymptomatic, meaning they have no symptoms at all.

A girl swims backstroke in a pool

Alyssa is a competitive swimmer. (Image submitted by Cathy Smyth)

Some kids with underlying health conditions, like Alyssa, can have it worse.

And in rare cases, they can feel the effects for months after they recover.

That’s what seems to be happening with Alyssa.

She no longer has COVID-19, but some side effects haven’t gone away.

Two girls sit on the grass doing tie-dye

In the summer, Emily and Alyssa made tie-dye together. (Image submitted by Cathy Smyth)

“A couple, like, weeks after we got out of quarantine, I went back to swimming and all my regular activities and my joints started hurting,” she said.

“I had to take my puffer all the time.”

Her health has improved.

“It sometimes just affects being a kid because, like, sledding in the winter, walking up the hill hurts my knees,” she said.

Alyssa’s story is not common

Dr. Jacqueline Wong, an infectious disease specialist in Hamilton, Ontario, said it’s normal for two sisters to experience COVID-19 differently.

“How sick they get can be different because their bodies are unique and different,” she told CBC Kids News.

Sisters Emily and Alyssa hug each other for the first time after they both were COVID-19-free. (Image credit: Cathy Smyth)

“Almost all the children get better quickly and are back to school, back to playing with their friends very soon,” said Dr. Wong.

“Sometimes, yes, a small number of children can still feel a little bit unwell afterwards.”

The good news is that things we’re doing to protect ourselves are working, like washing your hands, staying two metres apart, wearing a mask and staying home if you’re sick.

With files from Tiffany Foxcroft/CBC News

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