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COVID-19 Omicron Variant: What parents should know about sending kids back to school

By Dr. Damitra Ramos-Patel

The COVID-19 Omicron variant is more contagious than previous strains. In Houston, pediatric COVID-19 infections and hospitalizations are increasing, especially in children under the age of 5. Vaccines are designed to decrease the risk of severe illness, hospitalization, and death. 

What are pediatricians seeing in sick children?

We are seeing a bit of everything – cough/cold symptoms; bronchiolitis and pneumonia; croup-like infections; vomiting or diarrhea; sore or itchy throats; headaches. Some children do not have fever.

Why worry about COVID-19 infection in children?

Think about COVID-19 in 3 general categories:

  • Risk of severe illness
  • Risk of medium-term complications (specifically MIS-C)
  • Risk of long-term complications (long COVID)

Most children can be cared for at home and recover. Some will need hospitalization for lung, heart or other complications, especially children with underlying medical problems such as asthma and obesity.

Within 2-8 weeks after the initial infection, children can develop a rare complication called Multisystem Inflammatory Syndrome in Children. Symptoms include a combination of persistent fever, abdominal symptoms (pain, vomiting or diarrhea), rashes, and conjunctivitis. These patients can rapidly develop heart failure and other organ damage. Children who are critically ill will require care at a pediatric hospital.  

Children can develop persistent symptoms for weeks to months after COVID infection. Pediatricians most commonly see headaches, fatigue, decreased exercise tolerance, and chest pain.

Recommendations for parents as children return to school from winter break:

  • Discuss the COVID vaccine with your child’s pediatrician
  • Mask your child and yourself when out and about
  • Be thoughtful about your social activities over the next few weeks
  • Children benefit from familiar routines. As much as possible, continue what is normal and familiar for your child- family mealtimes, bedtime routines, playtime, and faith traditions.

Dr. Damitra Ramos PatelDr. Damitra Ramos-Patel is a bilingual, board-certified pediatrician at Avenue 360’s Southwest Health Center. To schedule a pediatric appointment, call (713) 426-0027 or click here.


The information contained in this Avenue 360 Web site is not a substitute for medical advice or treatment, and Avenue 360 recommends consultation with your Avenue 360 doctor or health care professional.