How you can hear Omicron in young children

·3-min read

A children's infectious disease expert has warned of a distinct symptom which belies how the Omicron variant is manifesting in young children.

According to NBC News, Dr Buddy Creech, a paediatric infectious disease expert and director of the Vanderbilt Vaccine Research Program says he and his colleagues have noticed "croup-like" presentations in children who test positive for Covid-19.

Croup is an infection of the upper airway.

Dr Creech says there has been an uptick in young children presenting with a bark-like cough, as Omicron infects a staggering number of children in the US.

The Omicron variant tends to be present mainly in the upper respiratory system, opposed to the lungs, he explained.

"Little kids' airways are so narrow that it takes far less inflammation to clog them."

Parents could notice a bark-like cough if their children contract the Omicron variant, US doctors warn. Source: AAP
Parents could notice a bark-like cough if their children contract the Omicron variant, US doctors warn. Source: AAP

Dr Creech said it results in a "characteristic barking cough" and while croup is usually mild in most cases, it's understandable why parents would be concerned.

Several doctors NBC News spoke to said it was reassuring, because along with bronchitis, doctors have been treating such conditions for years.

"As paediatricians, seeing more kids with croup and bronchiolitis is oddly reassuring," paediatric infectious disease expert at University Hospitals Rainbow Babies & Children's Hospital, Dr Amy Edwards, said.

"Because we've been dealing with those conditions for our entire careers."

Children in hospital on the rise in the US

Dr Edwards said the vast majority of children who catch Covid-19 will likely have a mild illness, though even healthy children can end up in hospital with serious complications linked to the disease.

In the US, the number of children under the age of five in hospital with Covid-19 has soared to the highest level since the start of the pandemic.

Since the Omicron variant spread rapidly through the US, the rate of young children being hospitalised in the US is now four in 100,000 – about a fourfold increase.

There's been an increase of children with Covid-19 being hospitalised. Source: AP
There's been an increase of children with Covid-19 being hospitalised. Source: AP

Dr Rochelle Walensky, director of the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, while children still have the lowest rate of hospitalisation of any age group, "paediatric hospitalisations are at their highest rate compared to any prior point in the pandemic."

At a White House briefing this week, Dr Anthony Fauci, the top US infectious-disease expert, said many children hospitalised with Covid-19 have other health conditions that make them more susceptible to complications from the virus.

That includes obesity, diabetes and lung disease.

Australia children now eligible for jab

As of Monday, children aged 5 to 11-years old are eligible for Covid-19 vaccines in Australia.

Over the course of January, there will be three million doses available for the 2.3 million children aged between five and 11.

Lieutenant General John Frewen said if parents are struggling to get their child a vaccine at their usual GP or healthcare provider, to try pharmacies or one of the state or territory-run clinics.

"There are plenty of vaccines so people do need a little bit of patience," he told the Seven Network on Monday morning.

"There are new appointments coming online every day, there are going to be walk-in opportunities as well."

The rising number of Covid cases in Queensland has led to the start to the school year being delayed by two weeks, the state government announced yesterday.

Victoria and NSW will not delay the start date for school, despite tens of thousands of daily cases.

with wires

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