COVID-19 is still a threat to U.S. children, say experts who warn that pediatric cases are on the rise. Although more than half of American adults have received at least one dose of a COVID-19 vaccine, kids are still at risk.
According to Good Morning America, the American Academy of Pediatrics (AAP) says that 18% of all COVID-19 cases were reported in children during the month of April. Michigan, where COVID-19 is surging, saw a 237% increase in pediatric hospital admissions between mid-February to mid-April.
Children usually have mild reactions to COVID-19, but a small percentage develop potentially deadly multi-system inflammatory syndrome or MIS-C. The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention reports that there were 3,185 confirmed cases of MIS-C in the U.S. since May 2020, and 36 deaths as a result of the syndrome, says GMA.
According to NPR, experts believe that the increase in pediatric cases is partially due to high vaccination rates among adult Americans, especially the more vulnerable elderly.
Easing restrictions for youngsters, including in person schooling, is also contributing to the rise in new instances in children. Dr. Sean O’Leary, a pediatric infectious disease expert at the University of Colorado and vice-chair of AAP’s Committee on Infectious Diseases, told NPR that the new B.1.1.7 variant appears to be more transmissible and may be contributing to the increased number of COVID-19 cases in kids.
The main symptoms of MIS-C to look for are fever, impaired organ damage, and a serious heart condition called cardiogenic shock, Dr. Aine Cook, a Los Angeles-based pediatrician told GMA. She said that parents should seek immediate help if their child has “trouble breathing, persistent chest pain, difficulty staying awake, or has pale, blue-colored skin, lips or nail beds.”
Over the past year, medical experts have learned to use steroids and intravenous immunoglobulin to tamp down inflammation in the body, says Cook.
“They are now proven to be successful first-line therapies for most children suffering from MIS-C,” she says, adding that some children may require hospital admission for advanced support.
According to Kaiser Health News, kids can also become “long haulers,” just like adults, and suffer long-term, debilitating effects from the disease. Pediatric hospitals have set up clinics to help detect and treat these anomalies and offer a structured follow-up program for the affected children.
Norton Children’s Hospital in Louisville, Kentucky, set up a special clinic to help children manage long-term symptoms after COVID-19. The clinic is designed for children and teens experiencing persistent side effects after a confirmed diagnosis.
“The COVID-19 Follow-up Clinic assesses the medical condition of children recovering from acute COVID-19 and determines if further testing or referral to a specialist is warranted,” said Dr. Gary S. Marshall, chief of pediatrics infectious diseases for the hospital.
Marshall noted that, in most children, COVID-19 is mild, and they recover without the need for ongoing treatment. For some, symptoms of extreme fatigue, body aches, headache and loss of smell or taste, may last for months after the infection.
“If you child has symptoms that last more than two weeks, they may benefit from evaluation at the clinic,” he said.
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