There have been over 10 million cases of children who have tested positive for COVID-19 in the United States.

This surprising figure was revealed during a recent news briefing of health professionals held by Ethnic Media Services and the California Department of Public Health was very different than initial information that was released to the public at the start of the pandemic that claimed that children were not at risk.

According to Dr. Priya Soni, assistant professor of Pediatric Infectious Diseases at Cedars-Sinai Medical Center and UCLA David Geffen School of Medicine, the reason for the large spike in cases and hospitalizations in children is multifaceted.

“The first is that Omicron is highly transmissible, much more transmissible than the Delta variant was, with a higher replication rate,” Soni said.

“What we were finding in studying the Delta variant vs Omicron is that the household secondary attack rate was almost double that of the Delta variant. That meant that if someone in the household was sick, they were more likely to pass it on to not just one but maybe both children and vice-versa.”

“We know that most children who get sick with the SARS-CoV-2 virus will have mild symptoms and recover. However, we have seen many children get very very sick and need hospitalization.”

Dr. Manisha Newaskar, Clinical Assistant Professor of Pediatrics at
    Stanford University School of Medicine

The professor went on to say that the large winter spike in cases “is stemming from close contact with others and travel due to the holiday season. I think it’s important to understand that our whole denominator of positive cases overall was so large in this time period when Omicron really peaked. So we know when that happens children are going to be more affected as well.”

Poor Working Parents Especially Struggle With COVID-19 And Medical Care

This increase in positive cases in children has put a great strain on parents. In addition to the increase in risk following the reopening of schools for in-classroom learning, many working-class parents struggle with getting the time off necessary to get their children the medical attention they may need.

“Most of our parents work in areas where they don’t have time off, construction sites, restaurants. So parents will hold off on bringing in their children, because they don’t have the time to bring them on,” said Dr. Jose Luis Perez of Central City Community Health Center. The majority of Dr. Perez’s patients are monolingual Spanish-speaking families.

“It does put a great burden on our parents because they can’t take the time off, they are already dealing with children having to stay home, and our parents are exhausted and that is something we’re dealing with on an everyday basis,” Perez said, pointing out the increase in cases of anxiety and depression seen at behavioral health departments in his community.

“It’s not necessarily an in-and-out procedure for our parents. Our parents know when they bring their child to us whether it is a sick visit or just a vaccination. It’s not an hour, two-hour procedure, they have to spend a good chunk of time.”

The majority of his parents, Perez said, use public transportation which can make a medical appointment much more challenging.

“Once you start adding public transportation, waiting, getting your stuff done, by the time you get done with it, half of the day is gone. For most of our parents, if they don’t work, they don’t make a living, that puts a strain on their budgets. That’s why our communities of color are usually most affected by this pandemic.”

Children Should Be Carefully Monitored

Mild and moderate COVID-19 symptoms share many similarities to a regular cough or upper respiratory infection said Perez, who recommends parents treat their children with cough syrups, antipyretics (anti-fever) medications and close monitoring of the child’s symptoms.

“The moment that the children have developed shortness of breath, chest pain, or any of the symptoms that would cause a child to go to the emergency room, parents should take their children. Not to wait until the clinic is open, not to wait until their children are in trouble, but immediately. It’s just easier and safer to err on the side of caution,” he said.

Children’s COVID-19 Symptoms And Complications Can Become Serious

Despite the long-standing notion that COVID-19’s symptoms are always mild in children, the symptoms and complications from the virus can often become serious.

“The symptoms of COVID-19 can vary from mild to severe, and generally begin 14 days after being exposed to the virus. Some of the common symptoms we see are fever and chills, sore throat, congestion, runny nose, muscle or body aches, mild cough, and even headache and fatigue. Some people will experience loss of taste and smell, also nausea, vomiting, and diarrhea,” said Dr. Manisha Newaskar, a clinical assistant professor of pediatrics at Stanford University School of Medicine.

“Symptoms that warrant immediate medical help include dizziness, chest pain or pressure that does not go away, shortness of breath or any difficulty breathing, severe abdominal pain, confusion and trouble staying awake, and if the parents are seeing bluish discoloration of the face and lips, then they should be seeking medical attention immediately.

The Virus Can Cause Multi-system Inflammatory Syndrome

“We know that most children who get sick with the SARS-CoV-2 virus will have mild symptoms and recover,” Newaskar said.” “However, we have seen many children get very, very sick and need hospitalization. In general children who have underlying medical conditions are more likely to get sick, but we have seen even previously healthy children get very, very sick.”

“Multi-system Inflammatory Syndrome in children is a condition where multiple organs in the body are inflamed, and this is one condition where we have seen children getting hospitalized for,” the doctor continued. “As for the worst case of COVID-19 in children, we have seen children with severe pneumonia respiratory failure, who have ended on ventilatory support and have multi-organ failure, and unfortunately we have seen a few children die from Severe COVID-19.”

Soni said people need to “lean on science, as we have been through the beginning of all this,” and that it’s really important for parents to understand that this virus, this vaccine has been studied more than any infection or pathogen in the history of time.

“There is no zero-risk decision when we’re all in this pandemic together, so you really have to understand that this virus is very, very uncertain. There’s no guarantee that even if your child is completely healthy, they won’t have some of the complications. You need to weigh those pros and cons as a parent and speak to your pediatrician.”

“If any parent is struggling with the decision on whether to vaccinate their child or not please discuss your fear and concern with your child’s provider. The reason we’re in this profession is to keep your children safe and healthy. It’s really important to have these discussions,” Newaskar concluded.