Objective Children are relatively protected from COVID-19, due to a range of potential mechanisms. We investigated if contact with children also affords adults a degree of protection from COVID-19.

Design Cohort study based on linked administrative data.

Setting Scotland.

Study population All National Health Service Scotland healthcare workers and their household contacts as of March 2020.

Main exposure Number of young children (0–11 years) living in the participant’s household.

Main outcomes COVID-19 requiring hospitalisation, and any COVID-19 (any positive test for SARS-CoV-2) in adults aged ≥18 years between 1 March and 12 October 2020.

Results 241 266, 41 198, 23 783 and 3850 adults shared a household with 0, 1, 2 and 3 or more young children, respectively. Over the study period, the risk of COVID-19 requiring hospitalisation was reduced progressively with increasing numbers of household children—fully adjusted HR (aHR) 0.93 per child (95% CI 0.79 to 1.10). The risk of any COVID-19 was similarly reduced, with the association being statistically significant (aHR per child 0.93; 95% CI 0.88 to 0.98). After schools reopened to all children in August 2020, no association was seen between exposure to young children and risk of any COVID-19 (aHR per child 1.03; 95% CI 0.92 to 1.14).

Conclusion Between March and October 2020, living with young children was associated with an attenuated risk of any COVID-19 and COVID-19 requiring hospitalisation among adults living in healthcare worker households. There was no evidence that living with young children increased adults’ risk of COVID-19, including during the period after schools reopened.


This is an open access article distributed in accordance with the Creative Commons Attribution 4.0 Unported (CC BY 4.0) license, which permits others to copy, redistribute, remix, transform and build upon this work for any purpose, provided the original work is properly cited, a link to the licence is given, and indication of whether changes were made. See: https://creativecommons.org/licenses/by/4.0/.

Cite as

Wood, R., Thomson, E., Galbraith, R., Gribben, C., Caldwell, D., Bishop, J., Reid, M., Shah, A., Templeton, K., Goldberg, D., Robertson, C., Hutchinson, S., Colhoun, H., McKeigue, P. & McAllister, D. 2021, 'Sharing a household with children and risk of COVID-19: a study of over 300,000 adults living in healthcare worker households in Scotland', Archives of Disease in Childhood. http://dx.doi.org/10.1136/archdischild-2021-321604

Downloadable citations

Download HTML citationHTML Download BIB citationBIB Download RIS citationRIS
Last updated: 17 June 2022
Was this page helpful?