Doctors say the omicron variant may be more severe for children

Published: Jan. 6, 2022 at 6:32 PM MST
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TUCSON, Ariz. (KOLD News 13) - Doctors are sounding the alarm about the rise in COVID cases due to the omicron variant as kids return to school.

It could only be the beginning of the surge. Experts say Arizona is just seeing the tip of the iceberg when it comes to omicron’s spread.

While data shows that symptoms associated with omicron are milder, this may not be the case when it comes to how it affects children.

“Kids are coming in with sore throats, scratchy throats, hoarse voices, a croupy-like cough, with nasal congestion, plus fevers,” said Dr. Sandy Herron, a pediatrician.

These are the main symptoms she sees in her patients who test positive for COVID-19. Since the omicron variant was first discovered in Pima County, her office has seen a spike in test positivity.

”Our test positivity from last weekend till now, so since the New Year, has been 40%. I think probably after the next couple of days it will be even higher,” she said.

Unlike other COVID variants, Omicron targets the upper respiratory tract, which could be especially dangerous for younger children.

“What we always worry about with upper airway issues is that kids have a small airway. They need the whole size of that airway to ensure good airflow,” Dr. Herron explained.

She says the more cases we see, the more hospitalizations and severe cases we will see. Much about the Omicron variant is still unknown, but Dr. Herron’s advice is to mask up, get vaccinated, and get boosted.

Now that kids as young as 12 are eligible for the booster shot, mother of three, Krista McEuen, is thankful for extra protection. With COVID cases spiking in Arizona, she hopes the Omicron variant won’t cause schools to return to remote learning.

″They’re thriving in the current environment. So, I am hoping that we stick with the in-person schooling,” McEuen said.

Her oldest child will be getting the booster this weekend. Her two other kids are fully vaccinated, but not eligible for the booster yet.

She says her family is doing everything they can to protect themselves and she hopes others do the same.

″I think that this is now something that is going to be in our worldwide communities and this is the defense we can take against it,” she said.

COVID-19 boosters are now available at doctor’s offices and Pima County vaccine sites for 12 to 15 year-olds.

You can find a full list of county sites here.

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