COVID Cases in Kids Are Rising: What to Know About Treatment
While a vaccine is not yet available for kids younger than 12, a wide range of approaches can help keep kids safe or treat them if they develop infection from COVID-19.
“We are seeing an increase in children with respiratory problems, but it has mostly been viruses like RSV," said Kara Bruning, MD, Clinical Vice President of Avera’s Pediatric Service Line. "In addition, COVID-19 case numbers are rising locally and nationally, and there have been increases in hospitalizations of children with these respiratory illnesses.”
Prevention Is the First Line of Defense
“We’re seeing kids who get very sick,” Bruning said. “We recommend vaccination for eligible kids. Vaccination among older kids and parents can help protect younger kids as well." She said testing for all ages can be another preventive tool.
With COVID case numbers being high, prevention is still critical. Social distancing, frequent handwashing, staying home when sick and wearing a masks are all measures that can help prevent COVID in your child. Prevention measures can help prevent other respiratory illnesses that go around this time of year, too.
Children 12 and older can be vaccinated. It’s safe and the possibility of an adverse reaction is very rare, Bruning said.
Medical Treatments for COVID-19
Avera has a multidisciplinary team including pediatricians, pharmacists and specialists who have developed clinical guidelines for kids with suspected or confirmed COVID-19.
Like many health systems, Avera has incorporated the use of monoclonal antibodies to treat eligible patients. Avera has also:
- Developed Avera@Home care transition programs for patients of all ages, including kids.
- Established clinical guidelines for all health care providers.
- Coordinated bed availability and transfer protocols for very sick patients.
- Offered guidelines for caregivers to care for children with COVID-19 at home.
In addition to the threat of COVID-19, Avera physicians are watchful for multisystem inflammatory syndrome in children (MIS-C) which can occur after a COVID infection.
“With the rapid, daily changes of the pandemic, flexibility and collaboration are critical tools we put to use constantly,” said David Basel, MD, Avera Medical Group Vice President of Clinical Quality.
Caring for Kids with COVID at Home
Most children can recover at home without additional medical attention, and parents can use these guidelines to manage fever, cough, shortness of breath and sore throat.
Use children’s fever- and pain-reducing medication according to the manufacturer’s directions. This includes acetaminophen (Tylenol) and ibuprofen (Advil, Motrin). Bruning said they recommend avoiding aspirin.
To manage symptoms such as cough and shortness of breath, try the following:
- A chest rub, such as Vicks VapoRub® for kids older than 2. For children 2 and under, avoid using rubs containing camphor. Instead, try Vicks BabyRub®.
- Give the child a warm bath or encourage older children to take a warm shower.
- Prop older kids up with pillows. Children under 2 should continue to lie on their back in their crib with no extra pillows or blankets.
- Use a cool air humidifier.
For all ages, warm fluids or something cold like ice cream or ice-pop snacks can soothe sore throats.
When to Call or Take Action
If your child’s condition does not improve after three or four days, or if symptoms get worse, call your clinic.
“If children in diapers don’t have a wet diaper every six hours, parents should call their provider,” Bruning said. “It’s OK if it’s not soaked, but it should be wet. Also call if other members of the household show symptoms or if you have questions about medicines or home remedies.”
You can also message your provider through AveraChart, but outside of clinic hours, call the Avera Medical Call Center at 877-282-8372. It is answered 24/7 by registered nurses who can access on-call doctors. If your child has difficulty breathing, chest pain or pressure or cold, clammy skin, call 911 right away. For babies, signs of breathing difficulty might include grunting, bluish skin or an inability to breastfeed.
Learn more about how you can get your child tested or help your 12 and older children to get their vaccine.