Omicron More Likely To Cause Upper Airway Infections Among Children Than Previous Covid Varieties, Study Says


The omicron variant is more likely than other coronavirus variants to cause upper respiratory tract infection (UAI) in children, putting them at risk for heart attack and other serious complications, even if children’s overall risk of serious illness remains low, according to a study published on Fridays by JAMA Pediatrics.

A girl undergoes a Covid-19 test on June 10, 2021.


Key facts

The omicron variant generally causes less severe disease than the delta variant in all age groups, but is more likely than delta to cause UAIs such as croup in children, researchers associated with the University of Colorado School of Medicine, Northwestern University Feinberg School of Medicine and Stony Brook University Department of Biomedical Informatics.

UAI may put children at particular risk for cardiac arrest and other serious complications because their small airways can be blocked relatively easily, researchers said.

The percentage of children hospitalized with Covid-19 who were also diagnosed with UAI increased from 1.5% in the pre-omicron period (1 March 2020 to 25 December 2021) to 4.1% in the omicron period (26 December 2021 to February 17, 2022), according to the study.

Researchers also found that ommicron tended to inflict UAI on younger children – the average age of a hospitalized child with Covid-19 and UAI dropped from about 4 years and five months during the pre-omicron period to about 2 years and one month during the ommicron period.

Overall, 21.1% of children hospitalized with both Covid-19 and UAI developed a serious illness requiring measures such as inserting a tube into the lungs to help with breathing.

key background

Measuring the relative severity of the ommicron variant has been a challenge for scientists. While research conducted around the time omicron established its dominance in the US showed that it was simply a more contagious and less severe version of the delta variant, concerns quickly arose about omicron’s effect on children. A study published Feb. 15 by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention found that children during the ommicron period were about four times more likely to be hospitalized with Covid-19 than during the delta period. Scientists have proposed several explanations: Because children are less likely than adults to have Covid-19 immunity from vaccination or previous infection, they may in some ways be more vulnerable to omicron. Andrew Pavia, chief of the pediatric infectious diseases division at the University of Utah Health, also suggested that omicron could infect the upper respiratory tract more easily than the lungs, reducing the risk of serious lung disease but increasing the risk of upper respiratory tract disease. . children are particularly vulnerable. While the number of Covid-19-induced UAI in children is not “overwhelmingly high,” further research could help treat young patients, the authors of the JAMA Pediatrics study wrote.


In the US, Covid-19 vaccines are approved for people 5 years and older. Despite this, according to the CDC, 30% of people in the U.S. ages 5 and older have yet to be fully vaccinated. Young people are generally less likely to be vaccinated than older people.

large number

12.87 million. That’s the cumulative number of childhood Covid-19 cases reported in the U.S. on April 7, according to the American Academy of Pediatrics.


Although the ommicron variant has increased the infection rate in children, the risk of serious illness in children remains extremely low. Data from the CDC and the JAMA Pediatrics study indicate that a child’s risk of being hospitalized with Covid-19 is about 1 in 14,085, while a child’s risk of being hospitalized with Covid -19 and a UAI and develop severe symptoms about 1 in 10 million. The risk of serious illness in children hospitalized with Covid-19 has also fallen to about 3.4% during the ommicron period, from 38.8% during the pre-omicron period, according to the JAMA Pediatrics study. While infant deaths in the JAMA Pediatrics study were too rare to quantify accurately, an American Academy of Pediatrics study with data from 46 states found that children accounted for between 0% and 0.27% of cumulative Covid-19 deaths in every state, with three states reporting no infant deaths from Covid-19.

Read further

“Dear pediatrician: How can I help protect my children until the COVID-19 vaccine is available for young children?” (Forbes)

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