As COVID-19 cases rise in the community among adults, doctors say it’s critical to remember that kids also get COVID-19 and can become very sick and pass it to others.
Dr. Erin Treemarcki, a pediatric rheumatologist for University of Utah Health and Intermountain Primary Children’s Hospital, says that’s even more reason for adults to take action to prevent the spread of the disease.
Children now represent 11 percent of COVID-19 cases in the United States, the American Academy of Pediatrics reported in late October. That number represents a significant jump from early October, indicating that cases among kids are rising rapidly.
“One-tenth is a relatively small portion, but that’s still a lot of cases – and spread,” Dr. Treemarcki said. “We need to remember that a village raises a child, and the family unit is very important, especially here in Utah. When a child gets sick with COVID-19, they may exhibit mild cold symptoms or no symptoms at all. But studies show that they pass the illness to their siblings, parents, caretakers, and grandparents — sometimes with dire consequences.”
COVID-19 also can create serious complications in children, including heart problems, shock, or in the most severe cases, Multisystem Inflammatory Syndrome in Children (MIS-C).
MIS-C can occur three to six weeks after infection and includes serious heart and organ impact, organ failure, and shock. There have been 15 cases of MIS-C in Utah so far, and the numbers could rise considering last month’s case surge.
Some kids who had COVID-19 also are experiencing symptoms similar to those described by adult “long-haulers” months after diagnosis.
Dr. Treemarcki says several children are being referred to rheumatology and other specialists for long-term fatigue, chronic pain, shortness of breath with activity, dizziness and even brain fog from COVID-19.
Because of these complications, Dr. Treemarcki says families should carefully consider activities and ways to keep kids safe while still having fun.
She advises parents to:
- Choose outdoor activities whenever possible.
- Wash hands frequently. Consider carrying a travel-size hand sanitizer with you.
- Practice physical distancing.
- Avoid large gatherings of people outside your immediate family.
- Wear a mask whenever you or your children are in public.
“The best thing we can do to ensure our children are able to participate in activities is for us as adults to do all we can to get case counts down. To do this, it’s critical for all of us to wear a mask in public,” Dr. Treemarcki said. “By wearing a mask, you’re saying to others, I care about you, and I care about my community. And we hope others will show that same level of respect.”
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