COVID-19 transmission rates remain high in Minnesota during the early days of 2022. The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) reported more than 25% of people tested for the virus were positive statewide in the first week of the year.
So, what happens if your child tests positive for COVID-19? While health care clinics and hospitals are always available when needed, most kids with minor COVID-19 symptoms can be taken care of safely at home. Dr. Gigi Chawla, vice president and chief of general pediatrics at Children’s Minnesota, answered important questions about how parents can help treat their kid’s minor COVID-19 symptoms and more.
1. What symptoms are kids experiencing with the Omicron variant of COVID-19?
Dr. Chawla: COVID-19 is the predominant circulating virus right now as of January 2022. So, if your child has the sniffles, congestion, and cough – you do need to have your child tested.
Children’s Minnesota is also seeing that kids have other symptoms like sore throat and fatigue; sometimes with headache or vague abdominal pain too. It’s these latter symptoms that tend to cause younger kid’s difficulties because then they don’t want to drink or eat.
2. What mild COVID-19 symptoms can be treated with over the counter (OTC) medications?
Dr. Chawla: If your child has a chronic health condition and is over age 12, speak with your pediatrician to see if monoclonal antibody treatment is a good idea. But otherwise, for pain and fever, acetaminophen (Tylenol®) and ibuprofen (Motrin®) can be helpful, and for runny nose, diphenhydramine (Benadryl®) can be useful to dry up secretions. Just follow the directions on the bottles for dosages for oral administration.
For decongestants or cough suppressants, there just aren’t a lot of good choices for kids that are truly helpful. So, neti pots in older kids, or a steamy shower for younger kids, can do the trick.
To help keep kids hydrated, despite the sore throat, OTC fluids like Pedialyte® can be helpful, or even half-strength electrolyte drinks, broth, or other fluids can also work. The key is small volumes, frequently.
3. So, if it seems that I can manage symptoms at home, then I don’t have to bring my child in for medical treatment during the quarantine period, potentially exposing others. But, what should I watch for at home that tells me that I do need my child to be seen by a health care provider?
Dr. Chawla: Don’t hesitate to call your clinic or provider to walk through your concerns. Generally, kids are going to do relatively well – but for a cough that is unrelenting, or causing a child not to sleep well or even making a croup (barking) sound – your pediatrician will likely want to see your child.
If your child is extremely fatigued or isn’t drinking well, and then subsequently making little urine or getting dehydrated, your pediatrician will likely want to evaluate your child.
4. When my child gets through the illness, when can they go back to their school or daycare? What else do I watch for?
According to new CDC guidelines, five days after their symptoms began they can come out of quarantine, provided they can wear a tightly fitting mask because some small fraction of people may still be contagious. So, you do need to check with schools or daycares to determine how that will be possible, and what their specific policies are.
One thing to truly watch for is any downturn in recovery. If a few days have passed and your child is now complaining of ear pain, or chest pain and cough, seek care for evaluation of an ear infection or pneumonia. If a few weeks pass and your child is now experiencing high fever and belly pain, for example, that could be MIS-C – a post inflammatory serious condition that requires prompt attention.
5. And now, after COVID-19 illness, can my child still get vaccinated?
Yes! Kids can get vaccinated for COVID-19 with the primary COVID-19 vaccines or booster vaccines any time after symptoms are improving and they are out of the quarantine period.