As we prepare for another school year in the shadow of the COVID-19 pandemic, many parents are concerned about the aggressively spreading Delta variant and how it affects children. We sat down with Maven Provider Jamie Hutton, MD FAAP to answer some of the most commonly asked questions we’ve received.

Key takeaways include:

  • How the Delta Variant affects kids and newborns
  • Trusted resources for the latest information
  • How Dr. Hutton is navigating COVID with her own family

What is the Delta variant and why is it dangerous?

Delta is a variant strain of the COVID-19 virus — a genetic mutation from the strain that first appeared in China in 2019. The Delta variant was first identified in India in December 2020, and seems to have first appeared in the U.S. in March 2021. According to the latest research by the CDC:

  • The Delta variant is more contagious than previous strains of the virus
  • It can possibly cause more severe illness
  • Today’s available vaccines are still effective against the Delta variant
  • Unvaccinated people are at the highest risk of severe illness from Delta

What do parents need to know about the Delta variant and their children?

In the early days of the pandemic, research showed that children experienced lower infection rates compared to adults. However, recent reports suggest the Delta variant might be more dangerous for children. Currently, there isn’t as much information and research available about the Delta strain, and parents are rightfully concerned about the health and safety of their children. Below are a few common questions we’ve received, answered by Dr. Hutton.

Does the Delta variant cause more severe illness in kids, or is it just more contagious?

“It is 50-60% more contagious than the original alpha variant. The case numbers have increased in children nationwide. Most of the cases have still been mild with symptoms of coughing, sneezing, runny nose, upset stomach, headache and fatigue. Hospitalizations in children have increased. It is still too early to determine if these rates have increased due to more children getting infected or if they are experiencing more severe symptoms than previously.”

Can vaccinated children get sick with the Delta variant?

“Vaccinated children can get sick with the Delta variant and honestly any variant.  Vaccines are not intended to prevent all diseases. The intention is to prevent the severity of illness and decrease the morbidity and mortality of an infection. So vaccinated children are less likely to become severely ill and end up in the hospital or die from the Delta variant than unvaccinated children.”

What should parents do if their child develops symptoms or comes into contact with someone who tests positive for COVID?

“Call your child's doctor if they develop any symptoms of Covid and inform them if they have been around someone who has tested positive. Based on this information the doctor can help determine if they need to be tested or be seen by the doctor. If they develop chest pain, shortness of breath, severe belly pain, or confusion take them to the nearest Emergency Room.”

What should parents do if their child tests positive for COVID?

“Quarantine your child according to CDC guidelines. Keep them comfortable using acetaminophen or ibuprofen for fevers and pain. Keep them hydrated. Monitor them closely for any signs of dehydration (such as no tears or less than 3 urinary outputs daily) or respiratory distress (coughing so much they cannot talk or eat, seeing their abdomen fall deeply with breathing, grunting). Also, call their doctor if they develop any new symptoms such as a rash or severe pain."

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Should parents have their vaccinated children wear masks outdoors and in public?

“I think this depends on the situation and the prevalence of COVID in this location. A mask probably isn’t necessary outdoors on a playdate, but outside at a concert or fair of thousands of people, I would encourage them to wear a mask particularly if they are unvaccinated. In a public indoor setting, masks are going to be a good idea for children until we see exactly how this delta variant affects them.  With it being much more contagious it is very likely to spread in an indoor setting.”

How are newborns affected by the Delta variant?

“Most COVID cases in newborns are still mild. More time and research needs to be done to determine if the Delta variant will change this.”

What do we know about "long COVID" in children? Should we be worried about kids getting cases with lingering symptoms?

“Kids can get long COVID. It is estimated 13-30% of children 2-18 will experience lingering symptoms. The older teens are more likely to experience more and worse symptoms.  Symptoms include brain fog, tiredness,cough, trouble breathing, joint or muscle pain, chest pain, depression or anxiety, headache, fever, heart palpitations, loss of taste or smell, and lightheadedness with standing.

The more severe the illness your child has, the more likely they are to have lingering symptoms. It is unknown how long symptoms typically last. The exact cause is also unknown.  There is no specific treatment: the symptoms are treated individually.”

What resources do you recommend for parents right now?

“The sources I recommend and trust include the CDC, AAP, and top medical centers such as Nationwide Children's Hospital and Johns Hopkins.  Healthychildren.org is a website that is frequently updated by the AAP and is easy to keep up with.”

How are you navigating this time with your own family?

“My children will be returning back to school in the upcoming weeks. As all parents right now, I am a little nervous about this with so much unknown. All of my children, vaccinated and unvaccinated, will be going to school masked. I am also having them wear masks in all public places. Until all of my children can be vaccinated and a little more is known about the Delta variant, we are limiting our social circles to families that are vaccinated as much as possible. We are also starting to order many things online again just to limit all of our exposures.”

If you or a family member are experiencing symptoms of COVID-19, or have been exposed to someone who recently tested positive for COVID-19, call your doctor and arrange for a COVID test.

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