Omicron causes new symptom in children, young infection rates skyrocket

Reported cases of COVID-19 in children under 5 have quadrupled since Christmas Eve, and the Omicron variant is causing a concerning new symptom: croup, a county public health spokesperson said Friday. Garfield.

“This is a big enough change in behavior from COVID-19 that we wanted to make sure the community was aware of what’s going on with our children,” said public health specialist Carrie Godes. at GCPH. “As a parent, croup can be a very scary symptom to deal with.”

Croup is an infection of the upper respiratory tract and causes a barking cough, which often presents at night after children have gone to bed, said Dr. David Brooks, who works with the pediatrics team at Valley View Hospital. .

“Each wave (of COVID-19) has had its unique characteristics,” Brooks said. “This wave is croup. “The severity for the general population has not been as severe as previous waves. In contrast, among children, we see significantly more hospitalizations (in Garfield County and throughout Colorado). »

GCPH public health nurse Rachel Kappler said she has tracked 51 cases of COVID-19 in children over the past week, and 29% of the total cases tracked in children under 5 since 2020 have happened in the last month.

“At this time last year, we only had 19 reported cases in this age group,” Kappler said, “compared to 79 now.”

Although croup did not increase the lethality of COVID-19 in children, it is of concern because children under 5 cannot be vaccinated against COVID-19, she said.

Parents of children with croup have a few options for reducing symptoms. Brooks said he advises parents to start a hot shower, then when the bathroom fills with steam, they can briefly take their child out into the cool night air before returning to the bathroom and let the child breathe in the steam, which may help clear their airways. A humidifier in the child’s room can also help reduce symptoms.

“COVID croup is very similar to the croup we’ve been dealing with for years and years,” Brooks said. “Occasionally for severe courses, we may have them in the hospital.”

In extreme cases, children may be transported to Children’s Medical Center in Denver.

Primary care providers are available 24 hours a day throughout the Valley if parents are concerned about their children’s symptoms, Brooks said.

Wearing masks around children can reduce the spread of the virus, but the main defense against rising COVID-19 infection rates is to ensure that all eligible people in the family group are vaccinated.

“There’s no doubt that vaccines work,” Brooks said. “Protect your children by getting vaccinated.”

Go to for more information on the prevention, spread and statistics of COVID-19.

Reporter Ike Fredregill can be reached at 970-384-9154 or by email at

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