During the COVID-19 pandemic, parents and kids have a lot of questions. Michael Bolton, MD, pediatric infectious diseases physician at Our Lady of the Lake Children’s Health, has answers.
How dangerous is COVID-19 for children?
While pediatric deaths are less common than adults, hundreds of kids have died from COVID-19. More kids are being admitted to the hospital, mainly related to the introduction of more-transmissible variants. Fortunately, vaccines are available to protect against variants, but only if those who are eligible get the vaccine. Younger unvaccinated kids rely on those around them to get vaccinated to protect them.
What type of COVID-19 tests does Our Lady of the Lake Children’s Health offer for children?
We have a few types of tests that we perform. One is the polymerase chain reaction (PCR) test, a swab with a rapid turnaround time 24 to 72 hours. We also perform rapid antigen testing, which detects if kids had a prior infection with the virus that causes COVID-19. The antigen test takes 15 to 30 minutes, but it is less sensitive than the PCR test. Finally, we can do an antibody test from a blood sample to detect prior infection. This test is not recommended for decisions about quarantine or whether to vaccinate.
Multisystem inflammatory syndrome in children (MIS-C) is a condition associated with COVID-19 that has been a cause for concern. What do parents need to know about MIS-C?
Some kids with COVID-19 have this delayed inflammatory response, which can cause abnormal labs and vital signs. MIS-C looks like a couple of other syndromes we have seen for a longer time, including toxic shock syndrome and Kawasaki disease. With MIS-C, different organs, including the heart, lungs and skin, can become inflamed. Some of these kids may need care in the intensive care unit, but most children with MIS-C recover well.
Which COVID-19 Vaccines do you administer to kids?
Children ages 5 and older can get the Pfizer vaccine with parental consent, while teens ages 18 and older are also eligible for the Moderna and Johnson & Johnson vaccines. Visit ololchildrens.org/coronavirus for the locations of COVID-19 vaccination clinics.
Should my child still wear a mask?
Although masks are no longer mandated in most public spaces, they are still a good way to prevent the spread of COVID-19. The Centers for Disease Control & Prevention recommends wearing masks in places where social distancing is impossible, and they are required on public transportation, including in airports and on planes. Kids should start wearing masks at age 2.