TOPEKA (KSNT) – COVID cases among children are rising because of the Delta variant, but according to health officials, it’s not the main illness sending kids to the hospital right now.
Medical Director of Pediatric Inpatient Hospital Medicine at Stormont Vail Health Dr. Fouad Medlej says while they have had some kids sick with COVID, what’s mostly sending them to his floor is RSV and Rhinovirus. They’re both respiratory illnesses typically found in kids younger than 2 years old.
Dr. Medlej said both respiratory illnesses get transferred through droplets and touch, and in a typical year, their season starts in November and ends in April. But this year, he’s seeing a surge in pediatric cases months ahead of what they’re used to.
“We went from 24 in January to 86 in June to 135 in July,” Dr. Medlej said.
He credits social distancing and other COVID restrictions for keeping RSV and Rhinovirus cases low, but said he noticed after restrictions loosened, cases started ramping back up sending toddlers and infants to his floor the most.
“It plugs up their noses, it plugs up their small airways. A lot of them end up on oxygen, a bunch of them need suctioning around the clock. Some of them end up in the PICU,” Dr. Medlej said.
He said so far, COVID treatment in that age group has not been nearly as extensive in comparison to RSV and Rhinovirus.
According to the American Academy of Pediatrics and The Children’s Hospital Association:
- 4,292,120 children across the U.S. have gotten sick with COVID; that’s roughly 14 percent of all cases.
- Out of those numbers, .1 percent – 1.9 percent of child cases resulted in hospitalization.
- 0 percent to 0.03 percent resulted in a child’s death.
- Health organizations that contributed to the studies, categorized a “child” as someone ranging from 0 to 20 years old.
Dr. Medlej said he’s not brushing off COVID but believes it’s important people know it’s not the only respiratory illness out there right now resulting in hospitalizations.
“We have to address the seasonal viruses. mostly RSV because that’s the one that in kids aged two years and below is the big troublemaker,” Dr. Medlej said.
He said there’s really no way to fully prevent RSV or Rhinovirus but the best way to protect those around you is to keep children and yourself home when showing any symptoms; specifically a runny nose and fever.