Q: In addition to being a physician, you’re also a parent. How nervous should parents be about the Omicron variant of COVID-19?

A: I’m the mom of a 10-year-old. I sent him to school because I know that’s the best place for him to be. But I also knew that, given how contagious this variant is, it was likely that he would get it. As a mom, sending him to school made me nervous. But as a pediatrician, I remind myself that we’re fortunate that the Omicron variant seems to be a lot milder than what we saw earlier in the year with the Delta variant. So, while we are still seeing some kids get sick and end up in the hospital, they seem not to be as sick as we saw earlier in the pandemic, especially kids who are vaccinated. My son did catch the virus, but he is vaccinated, so he was cranky for a few days and then got back to normal.

COVID-19 is unpredictable. We can’t always tell which kid is going to get seriously ill. We know that people with other medical conditions are at higher risk, but we also know that occasionally, perfectly healthy kids get very sick.

The thing for parents to keep in mind is that you know your child. Bring them to the doctor or emergency department if they:

  • Seems sicker than usual
  • Have trouble breathing
  • Aren't as alert
  • Aren’t drinking enough

Most kids will recover fine if you make sure they get plenty of fluids, use a humidifier to make it easier for them to breathe, and give them Tylenol or Motrin if they have a fever.

Q: It’s cold and flu season, so how do I know if my child might have COVID-19?

A: Many people who have the Omicron variant are getting symptoms that look like a cold, croup or the flu. Some people show up with a bad headache or think they have allergy symptoms. If your child has symptoms of any illness right now, use a rapid test at home or go to one of the many places around the city doing PCR testing. Right now, it’s best just to assume everything is COVID and take proper precautions. It’s important to lay low until they feel better to protect everybody else around them.
Q: My child doesn’t have a fever and feels mostly okay, but they have a runny nose or cough. Should I keep them home from school or daycare?

Even though they may have all the other symptoms, children don’t always have a fever with the Omicron variant. Do not rely on fever to determine if they have COVID. It’s very important to wait until their symptoms improve before sending them back to school or daycare. Since this variant affects children more than past variants, make sure they wear a mask as much as possible.
Q: If I’ve already had COVID-19, do I still need to get a booster?

A: Absolutely. One of the things that we recommend as soon as you get out of isolation or quarantine is to get a booster shot. We know that a booster shot increases the protection you will get, especially from the Omicron variant. We also know that having a previous strain of COVID doesn’t protect you from catching Omicron. If you haven’t been boosted or vaccinated at all, it’s not too late! Please do so as soon as you can.
A final note from Dr. Snowden: After more than two years, I know we’re all exhausted and want to get back to normal. The way to end this spike is for as many of us as possible to get vaccinated. That’s the only way to keep these big spikes from happening repeatedly. If you think you’re sick at all, stay home. You could be saving someone else’s life. If you do need to go out, wear a mask. Please do this to protect everybody in our community.