Should Parents Be Worried About the Recent Increase in COVID-19 Cases in Kids?

The American Academy of Pediatrics recently reported a significant increase in COVID-19 infections in children across the country.

The overall infection rate among kids is still relatively low. But we know that this news has raised questions – and concerns – for families.

Connecticut Children’s Physician-in-Chief Juan Salazar, MD, MPH, shares what parents need to know.

Is it true that, across the U.S., more kids are getting infected with COVID-19 than earlier in the pandemic? What about in Connecticut?

Unfortunately, yes. During the last two weeks of January, the number of children diagnosed with COVID-19 nationwide increased 12 percent. 

Connecticut is experiencing a similar increase. In recent months, we’ve seen more kids at Connecticut Children’s because of COVID-19.

 

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Why are more kids being diagnosed with COVID-19 now?

I think there are a couple reasons. In the first wave of the pandemic, COVID-19 tests weren’t widely available. Now, they are. Because we’re able to test more, we’re able to diagnose more cases of COVID-19, including in children.

Now that we’re in the second wave, we also have wider community spread than ever before. That means that the virus has unfortunately gone into more households – including households with kids.

> Related: Ask a Pediatrician: How Can I Tell if My Child Has the Flu or COVID-19?

Where and how are most children getting infected with COVID-19?

Most COVID-19 infections in children seem to be caused when they get together outside of school – like when kids gather with friends in household or community settings, and aren’t careful about social distancing and masks.

Have more kids been infected as a result of being back in classrooms?

Actually, no. The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention recently released a study showing that schools are not the problem. The schools are properly distancing, using masks, and following other safety procedures – and as a result, that’s not where COVID-19 is spreading.

> Related: When Will the COVID-19 Vaccine Be Available for Kids, and Will It Be Safe for Your Family?

Is one age group being more impacted by the rise in COVID-19 infections?

The increase has occurred across all ages, from very young children to young adults. That said, we probably see the increase most in teenagers, who are more likely to gather in groups in social settings where they’re not properly distancing or using masks.

Does the increase in COVID-19 cases in children have anything to do with the new variants?

Not at this point. It’s true that there are several new variants in the U.S., including confirmed cases of the UK variant right here in Connecticut. But so far, there’s no evidence to show that the new variants are behind the rise in childhood cases of COVID-19.

However, a more contagious strain could eventually affect more kids in the younger population. We’re keeping a close eye on it.

> Related: Now That There’s a COVID-19 Vaccine, When Will Life Go Back to “Normal” for My Family?

What else should I know about my child and COVID-19?

While there’s been a rise in the number of kids diagnosed with COVID-19, the good news is that, in general, children do not become seriously ill from COVID-19. Most kids who become infected will experience only mild symptoms.

If you think your child might be sick, or if they’re diagnosed with COVID-19, stay in contact with their doctor. Be on the lookout for symptoms of MIS-C, a rare but very serious inflammatory disease that’s related to COVID-19.

Otherwise, keep wearing masks, social distancing, practicing great hand hygiene, and making safe choices. As we get through the second wave and work to vaccinate our community, these continued efforts will keep our kids – and each other – safe from COVID-19.

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