Brace yourself for more reported cases of the Omicron variant, unfortunately in children.
This is according to Senior Paediatric Emergency Medicine Specialist at the North Central Regional Health Authority (NCRHA), Dr Joanne Paul, who said the ministry is predicting a three-to-fivefold increase in children being hospitalised in the coming weeks with the newly circulating variant.
Giving an update on children during the Ministry of Health’s virtual news conference yesterday, Paul said: “We are going to see a three-to-fivefold increase in paediatric admissions to hospital. You have the incidental category where they might come in with a fracture of their wrist or their hand and they also have Covid by chance, but that’s a smaller group. The larger group are the ones who come in with pure Covid because it’s so transmissible, you have an increase in Omicron coming through with regards to children in terms of hospitalisations.”
Paul said trends reported internationally suggest that children with Omicron experienced symptoms such as sore throat, fever and upper respiratory issues.
With fever, the most common symptom, children also presented with fever fits, sore throats and increase in Multisystem Inflammatory Syndrome (MIS-C) and croup she said. Croup, she explained, occurs when the upper airway of the child, already small, becomes a bit inflamed so they can’t breathe as much as they might cough with a seal-like barking sound.
At present, there are 69 children with MIS-C, five of whom are currently hospitalised.
Paul revealed that there are four children—ages two, 14, 15 and one baby less than six months—in critical condition at the Arima hospital and one other child at the Couva Hospital.
Paul added: “So far we’ve had 69 and we’re probably going to see an upsurge in that. They’ve seen those trends in USA and UK so far.”
Additionally, Paul said obesity was the major risk factor for children who presented with the Omicron variant.
She also said children who had sickle cell disease were at major risk when they presented with this variant.
Age was another factor. “We have so far the 12 to 18 age group of the adolescents who will have the co-morbidities, but we have the younger age group, the zero to five, the baby, the infant, the one year old who will also present and they will present sick and fever and other things associated with that,” Paul said.
Prepare yourselves, parents
To prepare for the upcoming spread, Paul urged parents to vaccinate their children once they were between the ages of 12 and 18, especially those with comorbidities.
She also advised that parents have a Covid pack at home which would include medication such as Vitamin C, Gesol, Ibuprofen, Paracetamol, to use if children become dehydrated or experience sore throat and muscle pain.
She advised parents to keep in contact with medical professionals who could advise them on how to take care of their child and also suggested that parents have a conversation with their child, impressing upon them the importance of washing their hands, wearing masks, physical distancing, and to increase ventilation at home.
Breaking down the differences noted in children who contracted the Delta variant compared to those who contracted the Omicron variant, Paul added: “What we’re seeing so far, aside from the normal symptoms, it’s very similar to Delta, we’ve seen so far a few differences though, we’re seeing much more muscle pain. We’re also seeing less of the loss of smell and taste, as you saw with Delta so it’s not that specific. And significantly, we’ve seen sore throat as one of the major factors with the Omicron variant such that the throat might be sore for about five to seven days. It might be even painful and it might even go to tonsillitis. So we’re looking out for muscle pain, back pain…”
Despite the milder symptoms, Paul warned that Omicron should not be underestimated as many people can end up severely ill and since it’s more transmissible it can overwhelm the healthcare system.
She said persons who are unvaccinated do present with more severe manifestations with Omicron.