TAMPA, Fla. — More children are ending up in the hospital with COVID-19 within the last week.
It comes as the U.S. deals with more cases of COVID-19 from the highly contagious omicron variant, along with flu season. The U.S. is averaging 260 pediatric COVID-19 hospitalizations a day, which is up nearly 30% from last week using data compiled from the CDC, according to CBS News.
Aside from the spread, health experts are also noting low vaccination rates among pediatric populations, along with those under 5 who are still ineligible to get vaccinated.
The severity of the omicron variant on kids is still unclear but more cases have generally meant more hospitalizations, infectious disease expert Dr. Anthony Fauci said during a Wednesday briefing.
It may be best for parents or guardians to get their child tested for COVID-19 even with milder symptoms, said Dr. Juan Dumois, pediatric infectious diseases physician at Johns Hopkins All Children's Hospital.
"That can have an effect on whether they go to school right away or what other people in the family they're going to have contact with," Dumois said.
That goes for fever, a scratchy throat, coughing, or runny nose for instance.
However, Dumois said more severe symptoms prompt a trip to the emergency room including a child whose lips are turning blue from lack of oxygen or if their oxygen meters go under 93%.
In addition, a child who is becoming lethargic and unresponsiveness from sickness.
Hospitalizations among kids with COVID could be due to coronavirus complications itself, but it could also be that kids ended up for another treatment and were found to have COVID, Dumois said.
Dr. Michael Teng with USF Health said it's difficult for even doctors to decipher the difference between COVID and the flu, which is why testing is necessary.
Dumois said if a child tests negative for COVID-19, it's likely they are experiencing some other form of sicknesses like the flu, which is seeing an uptick in cases, or RSV.
Dual COVID and flu testing are not available over the counter but are available at the doctor's office or a clinic.
Health officials are urging vaccinations among pediatric populations to keep kids safe from the virus, along with other children younger than 5, ineligible for the vaccine.
For parents like Courtney Lu of St. Petersburg, vaccinations for her two 6-month-olds mean a chance to protect them further and resume normal activities like taking them to a playground safely or having people over to their home.
Lu said she still remembers the time she became fully vaccinated from COVID-19. She was pregnant with her twins Sadie and Zora.
"How relieved I was that I was doing everything I could to protect my babies and to protect myself," Lu said.
Lu said she's practicing mitigation measures like small gatherings or interactions with vaccinated individuals to keep her family safe from the omicron variant.
Health experts are bracing for an uptick in cases as more children come back from break all over with contact from family gatherings, which is why they say masking and strong ventilation in schools are needed to mitigate further spread.