OVERLAND PARK, Kan. — There has been a recent uptick of positive COVID-19 cases in children 12-years-old and under.
Local pediatrician Kristin Stuppy says when the mask mandates went away, parents started returning to the community without that protection. They also allowed their children to be mask-free which exposed them to a myriad of illnesses — COVID-19 being one.
“I think there's a big disconnect in the feeling that kids don’t get infected, so they weren’t worried about their kids,” Stuppy said.
According to recent data by the American Academy of Pediatrics, nearly 4.3 million children have tested positive for COVID-19 since the start of the pandemic. Almost 94,000 cases were added just in the first week of August 2021.
“They thought that maybe they didn't have as much of it in their nose to carry and spread. And what we are learning is, they do spread it,” Stuppy said. “For a while, we weren’t seeing any cases. Recently, I think we got three positive cases back in one day.”
On top of COVID-19 concerns, Stuppy is seeing an uptick in other childhood illnesses unrelated to COVID-19. This, coupled with parents who are hesitant to test their kids for the virus, makes it difficult to gather accurate data of kids with COVID-19.
Symptoms of the virus may not be as extreme in children — oftentimes they may show no symptoms at all. But Stuppy says that is not a reason for someone to let their guard down.
“Even though they are very mild and these are not things that send them to the hospital, that just are annoyances to families, they happen day in and day out and can be life-affecting really,” Stuppy said.
Parents with children battling COVID-19 should make sure their kids stay hydrated and should monitor their breathing as well as mental and behavioral changes.
The vaccine is still not available to the youngest population, which means low vaccination and high positivity rates in adults directly affect kids. In turn, they affect the adults and it becomes a vicious cycle.
“One of the things that we can do to help protect them is for everyone to wear a mask,” Stuppy said.
Stuppy says there’s a lot of misconceptions about masks becoming a hindrance for kids, but there is no threat to the development of their social skills.
“The kids did not have a problem with seeing me, a stranger, in a mask," Stuppy said. "And as things evolved and the kids started wearing a mask in schools last fall, they seemed just fine."
She also hopes the vaccine will become accessible soon to all children under 12-years-old.
“It has gone through the process, then I will recommend it for sure,” Stuppy said.
During much of the pandemic, people believed the virus did not affect children as much. But Stuppy says there’s still so much unknown about this virus, and she is worried COVID-19 in children today will lead to other complications for future generations.