Children weren’t the main targets of initial COVID-19 strains, with only a handful of those below 12 years old getting infected and exhibiting worrying symptoms. It wasn’t until schools reopened in July of 2021 in congruence with the delta variant surge that children left and right started getting infected with COVID-19.
But with the new, more transmissible variant of concern, Omicron, COVID-19 cases in kids is starting to rise again. In fact, pediatric hospitalizations are soaring, with at least nine U.S. states reporting record-high numbers of children admitted for severe symptoms.
Awareness: Key to Protecting Children From COVID-19
Childrens’ stronger immunity against the COVID-19 virus has resulted in a mindset that puts them at harm today. The effects of the disease in children have been severely downplayed — but with the Omicron variant holding the reigns, more attention needs to be paid.
More than 90% of new COVID-19 cases among children appear to be caused by the Omicron variant and the number of pediatric hospitalizations has well exceeded Delta's numbers. According to a report from the American Academy of Pediatrics, more than 325,000 children were infected by COVID-19 in the week of December 23, 2021. And as of January 2, 2022, at least 1,354 children were contracting the virus each day.
Doctors have observed that severe symptoms and illnesses are still rare among children. But the surging number of them getting infected is starting to get worrying. It’s not all bad news though — parents can still protect their children from COVID-19 and reduce the risk of hospitalization and complications. It all starts with awareness.
Warning Symptoms of COVID-19 in Children
Doctors have identified five signs that a child might be infected with Omicron. These include:
- Runny nose
- Sore or itchy throat
- Body aches and pains
- Dry cough
If your child exhibits any of these symptoms but the effects are mild, they do not need to be admitted to a hospital. If they exhibit severe symptoms such as difficulty breathing, dehydration, and persistent chest pain, take them to the nearest hospital to get evaluated.
The Majority of Children Hospitalized for COVID-19 are Unvaccinated
According to Dr. Mark Kline, the New Orleans Children’s Hospital physician-in-chief, the hospital rarely sees vaccinated children admitted for symptoms of COVID-19. Most hospitalized patients are unvaccinated, either because they are not yet eligible to receive a COVID-19 vaccine or their parents refuse to get them vaccinated.
Among vaccinated kids, the symptoms of COVID-19 are mild enough to be treated at home. This stresses the importance and benefits of vaccinating children against COVID-19. If your kids are eligible, do take them to get their shots. The U.S. FDA has approved the use of the Pfizer-BioNTech vaccine for children ages five to 11.
If your child is not yet eligible to receive a COVID-19 vaccine or they are not available in your area, observe basic health and safety measures. These include letting your kids stay at home, teaching them to sanitize and wash their hands frequently, and if they absolutely need to go outdoors, providing them with tight-fitting face masks for optimal protection.