- Nearly 94,000 child COVID-19 cases were reported in a single week, according to the American Academy of Pediatrics.
- The Delta variant is more than twice as contagious as previous variants, and there’s data that suggests it might cause more severe illness.
- Yale Medicine reported that cough and loss of smell are less common with the Delta variant, while headache, sore throat, runny nose, and fever are among the top symptoms.
Unlike the earlier versions of the coronavirus, which, for the most part, left children alone, the new Delta variant is taking a considerable toll on kids — especially as children under 12 have not been vaccinated yet.
According to the American Academy of Pediatrics, for the week ending Aug. 5, nearly 94,000 child COVID-19 cases were reported.
“The Delta variant is more contagious. That’s why you’re seeing it more in children,” said Dr. Paul Offit, the director of the Vaccine Education Center and an attending physician in the division of infectious diseases at Children’s Hospital of Philadelphia.
According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), the Delta variant is more than twice as contagious as previous variants, and there’s data that suggests it might cause more severe illness in unvaccinated people.
Since the majority of children are unvaccinated, this puts them in a higher risk category of contracting the virus.
What does the Delta variant look like in kids, and how can we keep our families safe? We tapped experts to find out.
What are the top symptoms of the Delta variant in children?
It’s still too early to tell if there are significant differences in symptoms of the Delta variant versus the previous variants.
Yale Medicine reported that cough and loss of smell are less common with the Delta variant, while headache, sore throat, runny nose, and fever are among the top symptoms.
“It’s a little too soon to see high quality studies in the pediatric literature reflecting the current rise in the Delta variant,” said Dr. Michael Grosso, the chief medical officer and chair of pediatrics at Northwell Health’s Huntington Hospital.
“The most common symptoms in children and teens seem to be fever and cough, with nasal symptoms, gastrointestinal symptoms, and rash happening much less often,” Grosso added.
Prior to this, most children with COVID-19 didn’t have symptoms. The Delta variant may be creating more symptoms in more children than we were seeing earlier in the pandemic.
“Whatever the [variant], parents need to remain aware of the other illnesses caused by COVID-19 in young people,” Grosso said.
One serious disease to be on the lookout for is multisystem inflammatory syndrome in children (MIS-C).
“[MIS-C], which is an uncommon, serious complication of primary COVID-19, has its onset several weeks after initial infection,” Grosso said.
Symptoms of MIS-C include:
- abdominal (gut) pain
- bloodshot eyes
- chest tightness or pain
- low blood pressure
- neck pain
When should I test my child for COVID-19?
“Get your child tested if they have upper respiratory symptoms,” Offit said.
Children with any of the symptoms mentioned above need to be tested and seen by a pediatrician. This is especially true before children go back to school and as they return home from camp.
According to Offit, if your child tests positive for COVID-19, they should be isolated and quarantined until they no longer have symptoms.
Grosso added, “If they test positive but are well enough not to need a hospital stay, parents should monitor for breathing problems, fluid intake, and, maybe most important, general appearance.”
A parent’s sense that their child seems “off” is a good reason for reevaluation.
It’s also a good idea to require masks inside and open windows to generate airflow.
“Try to designate a bathroom for the sick person, if that is feasible,” Grosso said. “Finally, prevention is always better than treatment. For school age children going back in September, masks for all students, teachers, and other staff is key. And, needless to say, all those who are eligible should be immunized.”
When will children be eligible for the vaccine?
The Delta variant, being as contagious as it is, is seeking out those who are unvaccinated. There are 50 million Americans who are under 12 years old and, thus, are not eligible for the COVID-19 vaccine.
With the school year just around the corner, parents are growing impatient for a vaccine to be available for their kids. But clinical trials are still underway to see how the vaccines work in children, notably if they’re safe and what the proper dosage should be.
The Pfizer & BioNTech vaccine study enrolled more than 4,600 children in three age groups, and data is expected to come in sometime in September, Pfizer told CNN.
The Moderna study is enrolling about 6,700 children.
This is all to say that it could still be several weeks before children under 12 are eligible to receive the vaccine. So prevention, right now, is the best weapon of defense we have to stop the spread of the Delta variant in kids.
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