If in case you have a child or different younger kids at house, it’s possible you’ll be involved concerning the newest fast surge in COVID-19 circumstances pushed by the Omicron variant.
Whereas the Facilities for Illness Management and Prevention (CDC) solely introduced the first U.S. case of the Omicron variant on December 1, 2021, it has now taken maintain because the dominant pressure within the nation, already accounting for about 95 p.c of whole COVID-19 circumstances as of January 1, 2022.
“It’s essentially the most infectious virus we’ve seen since measles, with charges doubling each 48 to 72 hours,” says Rajeev Fernando, M.D., an infectious ailments marketing consultant at Federal Emergency Administration Company (FEMA) subject hospitals nationwide and a member of the What to Expect Medical Review Board.
Whereas Omicron infections are sometimes milder in children and infants, there isn’t a doubt that this pressure will influence them too, he provides. As of December, nearly 7.9 million kids have examined optimistic for COVID-19, in accordance with the American Academy of Pediatrics (AAP), with about 325,000 of these circumstances added in a single week alone.
“Whereas the complication price in children is comparatively low, we’re nonetheless anticipating a considerable enhance in hospitalizations given the sheer variety of infants and kids who will get it,” says Robert McGregor, M.D., Chief Medical Officer of Akron Youngsters’s Hospital in Akron, Ohio.
Given the truth that the COVID-19 vaccine isn’t but approved to be used in kids underneath the age of 5, it’s comprehensible to fret about how the virus — and particularly the Omicron variant — may have an effect on your little ones. Right here’s what we all know proper now.
What are the signs of the Omicron variant in kids?
The CDC states that COVID-19 symptoms can embody:
- Shortness of breath
- New lack of style or odor
- Muscle or physique aches
- Sore throat
- Congestion or runny nostril
Normally, you may anticipate signs of the Omicron variant to be similar to these of the Delta variant, says William Schaffner, M.D., an infectious illness specialist at Vanderbilt College Medical Middle in Nashville, Tennessee.
An ongoing COVID symptom examine in the UK discovered no clear variations between the early signs related to the Delta and Omicron variants. Nevertheless, individuals who examined optimistic for COVID-19 in an space with a better prevalence of the Omicron pressure reported these 5 signs most frequently:
- Runny nostril
- Fatigue (both gentle or extreme)
- Sore throat
Since these signs mimic these of the frequent chilly, in case your kids expertise any of them, you must get them examined for COVID-19 and isolate them till you get outcomes, Dr. McGregor advises.
Does the Omicron variant trigger extra extreme illness in kids?
Information on the Omicron variant continues to be rising. Studies from South Africa, the place the pressure was first recognized, counsel that hospitalization charges for kids contaminated with Omicron are larger than throughout earlier waves. That doesn’t essentially imply that little ones all over the place are extra weak to the Omicron pressure than they’ve been to different variants, nevertheless.
“Youngsters there could have had decrease charges of earlier coronavirus an infection and vaccination than adults, in order that they have much less pre-existing immunity,” says Dr. McGregor.
Different early knowledge signifies that Omicron could have an effect on folks in a different way than earlier strains and have a much less extreme influence on the lungs, however there’s nonetheless extra to study.
Consultants do know that the Omicron variant is extremely contagious. Preliminary analysis has instructed that Omicron is extra infectious than each the unique COVID-19 virus and the Delta variant.
“The extra contagious a virus is, the extra probably it can unfold,” Dr. Fernando says. “If extra kids are contaminated with the Omicron variant, then extra will develop extreme sickness.”
As well as, since a pediatric COVID-19 vaccine was solely accepted for U.S. kids within the 5-to-11 age group in November and a few mother and father have been ready to get their children vaccinated, about 23 p.c of children in that group had acquired not less than one dose as of December 29, in accordance with the AAP’s vaccination in children trends report.
“We all know that should you’re not vaccinated, you’re extra weak to an infection, and to extreme sickness,” Dr. Schaffner explains.
How are you going to defend your kids from the Omicron variant?
There are just a few steps you may take to assist maintain your loved ones protected from COVID-19, together with the Omicron variant:
Get vaccinated — and get your children vaccinated in the event that they’re eligible
Youngsters underneath 5 aren’t but eligible for the COVID-19 vaccine, however you may assist defend them by being totally vaccinated your self, Dr. Schaffner says. In case your baby is age 5 or older, get them vaccinated.
CDC knowledge revealed in December reaffirmed that Pfizer-BioNTech COVID-19 vaccine brought on principally gentle, transient unwanted effects (like ache the place the shot was given) in kids ages 5 to 11. Hundreds of thousands of younger children have now acquired their shot, and severe hostile occasions have been not often reported.
“We all know mother and father aren’t dashing to take action, however they’re the most effective protections we have now in opposition to the illness,” he provides. Whereas it’s true that two doses of the Pfizer-BioNTech vaccine could not all the time stop an infection, they do appear protecting in opposition to extreme illness, Dr. Schaffner notes.
Dr. McGregor agrees: “Anecdotally, all of the pediatric sufferers being admitted to our hospital with issues from COVID-19 are unvaccinated,” he says.
Put on masks
Adults and kids older than 2 ought to put on masks in public, particularly indoors and round different people who find themselves not of their family. The AAP additionally recommends that college students and employees put on face masks at college and day care no matter their vaccination standing.
In case your kids will tolerate surgical masks — the very best ones are KF94, N95 and KN95 masks — then these supply higher safety than easy material ones, says John Swartzberg, M.D., scientific professor emeritus within the division of infectious ailments & vaccinology on the College of California Berkeley.
In the event that they gained’t, go for cloth masks which have layers. “The very best safety is a surgical masks with a material one over it, however that could be laborious for a lot of children to put on for longer intervals of time,” notes Dr. Swartzberg.
Be conscious of indoor settings
Crowded indoor areas and people who would not have good air circulation are particularly dangerous.
“Over the subsequent 4 to 6 weeks, it’s a good suggestion to attenuate indoor public locations as a lot as potential,” Dr. Schaffner advises. “Watch a film at house as an alternative of going to a movie show, and spend time at an out of doors park as an alternative of inside a kids’s museum or play space.”
In case you plan to spend time with anybody outdoors your family unmasked — like at a gathering with grandparents — then fast testing of all company the day of the occasion is a should, Dr. Schaffner says. Even should you try this and each check comes again unfavourable, it’s nonetheless a good suggestion to put on masks if not everybody within the group is totally vaccinated and open home windows if potential. Higher but, take the occasion outdoors and follow out of doors gatherings on the whole should you can.
Keep away from nonessential journey
Given Omicron’s fast unfold, should you can delay journey plans proper now, achieve this, Dr. Fernando says. In case you should journey with little ones, take preventative measures akin to sporting a masks (for these ages 2 and up) on public transportation and when in indoor settings, and getting examined earlier than and after touring.
Observe good hand hygiene
The entire household must be within the behavior of washing their fingers typically with cleaning soap and water for not less than 20 seconds, particularly after being in a public place, after coughing or sneezing, and earlier than and after caring for somebody who’s sick.
If cleaning soap and water aren’t accessible, adults can use a hand sanitizer that accommodates not less than 60 p.c alcohol; infants and toddlers mustn’t use hand sanitizer.
Observe social distancing tips
Since some folks with out signs could possibly unfold the virus, keep not less than 6 toes (about two arm lengths) from different folks, particularly in case your kids are too younger to get vaccinated.