January 12, 2022

In the News: Omicron Leading to a Familiar Illness in Kids: Croup

Reports nationwide show the Omicron variant has struck the pediatric population particularly hard. In addition to the complications COVID-19 infection brings, NBC News reports some children under five who contract Covid are also presenting with croup. The sound of a barking cough is an unwelcome development for parents anxious about the health of a child who is too young for vaccination during the pandemic.

The perceived reason for croup’s emergence is that Omicron appears to take up residence higher in the respiratory tract, compared to deeper in the lungs like other variants. That differentiation means the small airways of children become inflamed and produce the barking cough that pediatricians have long associated with seasonal viruses and bronchiolitis. Parents may take little comfort in croup’s common notoriety, though pediatricians are expressing more confidence.

“As pediatricians, seeing more kids with croup and bronchiolitis is oddly reassuring because we’ve been dealing with those conditions for our entire careers,” PIDS member Dr. Amy Edwards is quoted saying in the article. Adding that croup may be “scary to hear, but it doesn’t mean there is any problem with the lungs.” Also quoted in the article is PIDS President, Dr. Buddy Creech, who noted “for those who are unvaccinated, this is going to be a rough ride. That may include our young children, and so we really have to protect them as best we can,” by surrounding them with the vaccinated.

The vast majority of children who contract COVID-19 are likely to experience mild illness, croup included. It is possible, however, for some to develop serious complications and need admission to a hospital. The Omicron variant particularly is pointing toward greater numbers of hospitalizations for children.

As of the running of this story, more than four in 100,000 children under five were admitted to a hospital with COVID-19 as of January 1. At least 16 states had broken records for the number of pediatric hospitalizations linked to COVID-19 due to Omicron’s heightened transmissibility. Those numbers are only climbing as Omicron continues to plow its way across the U.S.

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