Here’s What Experts are Seeing in Kids During the Omicron Wave


But a large percentage of hospitalized children are being treated for other health conditions and are incidentally testing positive upon routine COVID-19 testing. Experts recommend getting kids vaccinated if they are old enough and masking and social distancing for kids too young to be vaccinated. A record number of children have recently been hospi-talized with COVID-19 in recent weeks as the Omi-cron variant has spread.

COVID-19 cases in children have recently increased by 64 percent. But looking closer at the data, health officials note that many of these kids are not in the hospital because of COVID-19. Many hospitalized children are being treated for other health conditions — including broken bones and conditions such as appendicitis — and are incidentally testing positive upon routine COVID-19 testing.

This has likely caused hospitals to overcount the number of pediatric COVID-19 hospitalizations, Dr. Anthony FauciTrusted Source, director of the Na-tional Institute of Allergy and Infectious Diseases, announced last week. Still, coronavirus cases are increasing among children. While severe illness from COVID-19 in children remains rare — even with Omicron — the rapid and significant increase in cases alarms pediatricians as more cases will inevitably lead to more hospitalizations. “Some factors that could be contributing include increased transmissibility of the Omicron variant; more COVID testing available and being performed, in-cluding home testing; and more people indoors due to cooler weather,” Dr. Zachary Hoy, a pediatric infectious disease specialist at Nashville Pediatric Infectious Disease in Tennessee, told Healthline.

How does this wave compare to previous waves?

Dr. John McGuire, chief of the Division of Pediatrics Critical Care Medicine at Seattle Children’s Hospital, says his hospital has seen a steep increase in patients in the COVID-19 special isolation unit. Still, the current wave appears no more severe than previous waves.

“Our SIU patient volumes are in line with previous highs, and COVID patients still comprise a small proportion of all total inpatients we’re seeing,” McGuire said. Many of the kids who test positive for COVID-19 in the hospital were not admitted for the disease but rather for other health issues, McGuire said. They incidentally tested positive during routine screening. McGuire says the severity of COVID-19 illness at Seattle Children’s Hospital appears to be lower than what was seen with the Delta variant. The vast majority of COVID-19 cases right now are believed to be caused by Omicron. Omicron is thought to cause milder illness than previous variants like Delta. Still, it is more contagious and therefore infects more people, says Dr. Magna Dias, a pediatric hospitalist with Yale Medicine.

Though a smaller percentage of kids who contract Omicron may end up hospitalized, the sheer volume of cases has resulted in more kids being hospitalized. “There are a lot more kids that are infected right now, and so even though less percent are getting admitted, we have more admitted patients who are sick,” Dias said.

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