Omicron causes new symptom in children, as young infection rates increase
COVID-19 cases reported in children younger than 5 have quadrupled since the week of Christmas, and the omicron variant is causing a concerning new symptom: croup, a Garfield County Public Health spokesperson said Friday.
“This is a significant enough change in the behavior of COVID-19 that we wanted to make sure the community was aware of what’s happening out there with our children,” said Carrie Godes, a GCPH public health specialist. “As a parent, croup can be a very scary symptom to deal with.”
Cases in that youngest of age groups in the county went from an average of just one or two per day in late December to more than five per day at one point last week, which Garfield Public Health is continuing to monitor.
Croup is an infection of the upper airway and causes a barking cough, which often presents at night after children lay down for bed, said Dr. David Brooks, who works with Valley View Hospital’s pediatrics team.
“Each wave (of COVID-19) has had its unique characteristics,” Brooks said. “This wave is croup. “The severity for the general population has not been as bad as previous waves. In contrast, in kids, we are seeing far more hospitalizations (in Garfield County and across Colorado).”
GCPH Public Health Nurse Rachel Kappler said they’ve tracked 51 cases of COVID-19 in children during the past week, and 29% of the total cases tracked in children younger than 5 since 2020 have occurred in the last month.
“This time last year, we only had 19 reported cases in this age group,” Kappler said, “compared to 79, now.”
While croup has not increased the lethality of COVID-19 among children, it is a cause for concern because children younger than 5 cannot be vaccinated for COVID-19, she said.
Parents with children suffering from croup have a few options for decreasing the symptoms. Brooks said he advises parents to start a hot shower, then as the bathroom is filling with steam, they can briefly take their child out into the cool night air before returning to the bathroom and letting the child breath in the steam, which could help clear their airways. A humidifier in the child’s room can also help reduce symptoms.
“COVID croup is very similar to the croup we’ve dealt with for years and years,” Brooks said. “Occasionally for severe courses, we can have them in the hospital.”
In extreme cases, children might be transported to the Children’s Medical Center in Denver.
Primary care providers are available 24 hours a day throughout the valley if parents have concerns about their children’s symptoms, Brooks said.
Wearing masks around children can reduce the virus’ spread, but the primary defense against increased COVID-19 infection rates is ensuring everyone eligible in the family group is vaccinated.
“There’s no doubt vaccines work,” Brooks said. “Protect your kids by vaccinating yourself.”
Go to Garfield-County.com for more information about COVID-19 prevention, spread and statistics.
Reporter Ike Fredregill can be reached at 970-384-9154 or by email at email@example.com.
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