2-year-old child with COVID-19 placed on a ventilator: what parents of children under 5 should know

Adrian James is one of more than 320,000 children diagnosed with COVID-19 in the United States in the past two weeks, according to federal data.

The 2-year-old from Mount Vernon, Ill., Has faced serious complications from the virus, including a hospital stay of almost two weeks, five days of which he was kept alive on a ventilator, according to his mother, Tiffany Jackson.

“At one point, honestly, I wasn’t sure if he would make it or not because it took so long for him to show signs of improvement,” Jackson told “Good Morning America,” adding that her son’s first symptom was a mild cough. “I was so scared.”

Adrian, who also developed pneumonia while battling the virus, was released from the hospital on Monday, according to Jackson.

The toddler continues to recover well, but will have to return to the hospital in six weeks to check his lungs, according to Jackson, who said no one else in his family was showing symptoms of COVID-19 at the time. where Adrian tested positive for the virus.

“Honestly, I have no idea where he got it,” said Jackson, who looked after Adrian full time at home. “It was a surprise to me that he could be so young and get so sick.”

As of last week, children made up nearly 25% of weekly COVID-19 cases reported in the United States, according to a weekly report released Monday by the American Academy of Pediatrics and the Children’s Hospital Association.

“When [the pandemic] started, we were all talking about how it was such a strange virus that was really targeting the older population and the kids were really safe from any serious illness, “said Dr Marya Strand, doctor -Head of SSM Health Cardinal Glennon Children’s Hospital in St. Louis, Missouri, where Adrian was treated.

“Now what we are seeing with the delta variant is not only that the children are getting sick with COVID, but the children are getting significantly sick with COVID. At first, we weren’t seeing significant infections in the children of less than 2 years old, but now we have infants in our hospital with significant illness, ”she said.

While serious illness from COVID-19 remains rare in children, data shows, medical experts say, and cases like Adrian’s prove young children get sick from the virus.

“I think that’s the thing a lot of people have really lost sight of, that low risk doesn’t equate to no risk,” said Dr Amy Edwards, pediatric infectious disease specialist at Rainbow Babies University Hospital. & Children’s Hospital of Ohio. “While we know, of course, that the majority of young children who receive COVID will do well, this is not universal.”

“Without a crystal ball that tells us which children are going to have severe COVID and which children are not, it can be very difficult as a parent,” said Edwards, mother of one son. 2 years and 4 years. – one year old girl.

As children aged 5 to 11 move closer to COVID-19 vaccine eligibility, perhaps by early November, the task has become particularly difficult for parents of children under five.

Children in this age group will be the very last of the population eligible for vaccination.

Here are five tips from Strand and Edwards for parents on reducing the risk of COVID-19 for children under 5.

1. Get vaccinated.

“Vaccination remains the number one way for parents to protect their children because if a parent is vaccinated their child is less likely to contract COVID,” Edwards said. “The vast majority of children who are admitted to hospital with COVID have unvaccinated parents, so although schools and daycares are a point of risk for unvaccinated children, their major risk comes from their parents not being vaccinated. are not vaccinated. “

And even if a vaccinated parent gets a breakthrough case of COVID-19, which data shows is rare, they are still less likely to pass the virus on to their child, according to Edwards.

“While it is true that if you are unlucky enough to catch a breakthrough infection you could pass the virus on to family members, there are two things you should keep in mind,” he said. she declared. “First, most people don’t have an outbreak infection, and second, if you get an outbreak infection you are contagious for fewer days.”

Edwards also said it was important for siblings and relatives of children under 5 to be vaccinated as well, because the more people vaccinated, the safer it is for unvaccinated people, such as the population under 5 years old.

She said she expects children aged 6 months and older to become eligible for COVID-19 vaccines as early as next spring.

2. Remain masked.

Edwards and Strand both said children over 2 should continue to wear face masks in public places.

Vaccinated parents and siblings of unvaccinated children should also continue to wear face masks also in public places like school, work and shops, according to the two experts.

“It would be quite easy for someone in this family to pass this virus on to a young child, so the whole family must continue to use very good precautions to protect their little family members,” Strand said. “So children have to remain masked at school, parents have to remain masked at work and that way when they get home they can be a safer family unit together.”

3. Keep children home if they have symptoms of illness.

“If you are sick or your children are sick, you have to stay home,” Strand said. “It doesn’t matter if it’s the holidays, or it’s Halloween, or your kids are disappointed. They’ll be a lot more disappointed when someone is tragically sick if you just had to go to this party area.”

Strand also said it was extremely important to make sure children get the flu shot this year.

“It cannot be stressed enough that as we enter this flu season, the more people we can protect against the flu, the better off everyone will be,” she said. “What we are seeing is that our health care system is currently overwhelmed with patients.”

4. Pay attention to the people with whom your children interact.

Edwards said she makes sure everyone who walks into her home and interacts with her children is either vaccinated or has a recent negative COVID-19 test.

And when her kids play with neighborhood friends, she has a rule that they are only allowed to play outdoors because she doesn’t know the immunization status of all parents.

“If a neighbor friend invites them to play with dolls inside, the answer is always no, and my kids know it,” she said. “If we take them in public, like to a local park, they know that, yes, they can play but they’re supposed to keep their distance from other kids, and if a park is too busy, we just leave and go to a other place.”

5. Assess how careful your family needs to be.

Edwards stressed that his family is taking extra precautions when it comes to COVID-19 because, first, they don’t want their unvaccinated children exposed to the virus and, second, as a pediatric infectious disease specialist in the midst of a global pandemic, she does not have the opportunity to be absent if the family were to go into quarantine.

Likewise, a family with an unvaccinated toddler who is immunocompromised may also take more precautions than the average family. On the other hand, a family that does not have any underlying conditions and lives in an area with a low rate of COVID-19 transmission may have more freedom.

This will apply especially as families decide in the coming weeks whether or not to reunite for the holidays.

Edwards said everyone in her extended family is vaccinated, for example, so she is comfortable reuniting with them with her two young children.

“Families need to understand their family risk when making decisions about masking, vaccination, social distancing and testing,” Edwards said. “And every family needs to understand their family’s tolerance for risk, how well they tolerate those risks, and then the steps they can take to mitigate those risks.”

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