FAQ: Omicron Variant and Children and What to Do if Your Child Tests Positive
What are the symptoms of Omicron?
Omicron’s symptoms are very similar to those of other COVID-19 variants. Many individuals report experiencing sore throat, fatigue, aches including headache, dry cough, congestion and fever. It’s been reported that loss of taste and smell is less common for Omicron.
The variant seems to cause less severe symptoms and appears to be milder.
Omicron also seems to be leading to a common childhood illness, croup. Croup is typically caused by seasonal viral infections, most often parainfluenza, and presents when there is a sufficient amount of inflammation or swelling in a child’s upper respiratory system. Symptoms include a loud barking cough, fever, hoarse voice and noisy breathing sometimes accompanied by a whistling sound. Omicron appears to more often affect the upper respiratory tract vs. the lungs and this accounts for the croup-like, bronchiolitis-like illness that is seen.
Most often croup can be treated with supportive care at home and resolves/improves within three to five days. However, if a child’s symptoms do not improve, contact your healthcare provider.
If Omicron is more contagious and transmissible, is the vaccine still effective?
While break-through cases are possible, the vaccine still offers significant protection especially against hospitalization and long-term issues. But we know that the vaccine’s effectiveness gets less over time and so boosters are also key to help protect against COVID-19. The CDC now recommends a booster in individuals 12 and older, five months after following completion of primary series. The goal of vaccination is to train your body’s immune system to respond quickly to an infection. The first two doses of the COVID-19 vaccine taught your body what the virus looks like and gave it practice fighting it. But over time, your body might need a reminder. The booster dose is that reminder. Now that vaccine is recommended for children 5 to 11 years of age, it is important to ensure that children in this age group are also vaccinated.
What should I do if my child has tested positive for COVID?
If your child has symptoms consistent with COVID-19 and is positive by a home antigen test, then you do not need any further testing. However, if a child has symptoms or exposure to SARS-CoV-2 and a negative antigen test then they do need to get a PCR test. A PCR test can detect lower amounts of virus and are key to knowing if someone is negative.
If your child has tested positive with COVID-19, stay at home and follow isolation and quarantine guidelines. It’s important to let those you had contact with 48 hours prior to symptoms or testing positive know about your results.
As a parent or caregiver, reassure your child and comfort them as needed. Knowing they have COVID-19, may be scary for a young child or adolescent. Answer their questions as best as they can understand for their age.
Treatment includes rest, increased hydration, eating healthy and administering appropriate age doses of ibuprofen or acetaminophen for fever, aches or pains. Using a cool mist humidifier can help your little one with congestion.
Most children will experience mild symptoms. Contact your healthcare provider if:
- Newborns (under two months) with a fever of 100.4° F or higher
- Severe chest pain, trouble breathing, passing out or fainting, coughing up blood
- Severe asthma attacks
- Severe dehydration (child is lethargic, has dry lips or mouth, hasn’t urinated in 4 to 6 hours, vomiting, diarrhea)
- Serious allergic reactions (swelling, trouble breathing)
- Sudden neurologic concerns such as changes in mental status (child is hard to wake up or is confused when you wake them up), seizures, high fevers with headache and a stiff neck, sudden changes in the ability to speak, see, walk or move
- Safety concerns and thoughts of harming themselves or others
- Bluish lips or face
After your child has recovered from illness, they can end isolation and quarantine and return to school and extracurricular activities depending on their local health department guidelines. Consult your doctor about returning to sports or other activities. Depending on the severity of symptoms your child experienced, the American Academy of Pediatrics recommends following these guidelines: Youth Sports: A COVID-19 Safety Checklist - HealthyChildren.org.
Continue to practice mitigation protocols including staying home when sick, social distancing, hand hygiene and masking. If you are eligible for the vaccine, get vaccinated, and if you are five months post your first completed series and 12 years or older, get boosted.