Pediatricians are seeing a unique trend in children contracting the omicron variant of COVID-19, saying it could be behind a recent spike in hospital visits as young kids suffer complications from the variant.
Dr. Latania Logan, Chief of Pediatric Infectious Diseases at RUSH University Medical Center, says narrow airways in children under 5 years of age make it easier for germs to sit where the omicron variant replicates.
This can lead to other infections like bronchiolitis, and can lead to other respiratory issues.
“They’re coming in with these seal-like barking coughs which are associated with the upper airway being inflamed,” said Dr. Logan. “The airways may be a little bit more ‘floppy’ than the adult airway or they may have a little bit of a lesser ability to remove the secretions that an adult can do by coughing.”
Logan says she’s seeing mild-to-moderate cases in toddlers and infants. Most hospital stays are only averaging around two days or less due to steroid therapy.
“We are used to seeing this upper airway disease in children and we know we have to support them through it,” she said. “We know that generally, we can do this over a shorter period of time giving them some steroids”
Dr. Alin Abraham of Northwestern Medicine says children who contract the omicron variant are developing other conditions like dehydration and further complications from mucus build up.
“When that mucus build up starts to increase, when it starts to go down just a little bit lower and it’s harder for them to clear their airway, it does absolutely affect their breathing and their ability to stay hydrated,” the doctor said.
The problem is only compounded in this age group because children under five remain unvaccinated.
Still, the omicron variant appears to cause a milder infection compared to previous variants, like the delta variant, but researchers are still investigating those factors.