Children under 5 years old infected with the Omicron variant of COVID-19 are presenting with symptoms of croup, an upper airway infection that causes a barking cough, pediatricians have recently reported.
Croup can be a common diagnosis for children aged 6 months to 3 and is usually mild and easily treated. With Omicron impacting young, vaccine-ineligible children at high rates — especially in comparison to previous strains of the virus — pediatricians are noticing an increase in patients with croup-like symptoms who test positive for COVID-19.
Experts believe that this overlap may be Omicron-specific. Early evidence has shown that this variant is capable of infecting the upper respiratory tract. It has a harder time getting to the lungs than previous variants.
Eric Ball, MD, a pediatrician at Children’s Health Orange County in Southern California, told MedPage Today that COVID-19 cases started to spike in his young patients just before Christmas. He said that his older patients, who have been vaccinated, usually present with mild symptoms. Children under 5 years old are more likely to get the disease.
“Croup are just a few of the many things we see these children present with,” Ball explained. “But, in general, people who haven’t had vaccines are generally getting sicker than those who have been vaccinated. This largely includes the children who have not had COVID protection. “
Ball has admitted more children to the hospital for COVID-19 in these first weeks of 2022 than he did for all of 2021, he added. As of January 10, he said he was on his sixth admission.
This increase in hospitalizations for COVID positive children suffering from croup symptoms has also been observed at Children’s Hospital Los Angeles.
” In general, we don’t have many hospitalizations for Croup. It’s something we can usually manage in an emergency [department], and we might need a few hospitalizations.” Susan Wu, MD, a CHLA pediatric hospitalist, said MedPage Now . “But, I have seen many patients with croup due COVID in just the past few weeks. This is not common. “
Omicron could look similar to croup in children young because of the similarities between the symptoms: barky coughs, difficulty breathing, and often a fever. For Wu and other pediatricians, recognizing that croup can be a possible symptom of COVID is crucial; a heightened awareness of this may urge parents to take more caution, potentially preventing the spread of COVID-19 to other young children, grandparents, or immunocompromised family members.
Wu stated that she is ready to treat more COVID pediatric cases because of the return to in-person learning at many schools this month.
“We know that [the Los Angeles Unified School District]