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'Don't panic.' How parents with kids too young to vaccinate can navigate omicron

Ada Tseng, Los Angeles Times on

Published in Health & Fitness

"Children less than a year of age, those with chronic illnesses — neurologic, immunologic or respiratory conditions — and those who are obese have a higher risk of becoming very ill with the SARS-CoV-2 illness," Aldrovandi said.

These include children who have a history of leukemia, are getting chemotherapy or are transplant recipients, Soni said.

Dr. Kawsar R. Talaat, associate professor of international health at the Johns Hopkins Bloomberg School of Public Health, encouraged worried parents to talk to their pediatrician. "There are some kids who maybe should be kept at home and protected from others until the surge resolves," she said. "It's a very individual conversation between the parents and the doctors: what their risks are and how to best protect their kids."

What can concerned parents do?

-- Make sure everyone around your kids who is eligible is vaccinated and boosted. If you have a get-together, it's less risky if all the adults around them are masked, vaccinated and boosted. This creates a protective cocoon around them, Talaat said. If you send your kids to day care, it's important to know that the employees are vaccinated, boosted and masked — and that if they get sick, they don't have to come to work.

Having a support system of people who are vaccinated and boosted also means you might have help in case you test positive and want to isolate from your kids, said Kirk Sell, who encourages parents to make plans for various possible scenarios.

 

-- Mask up, even when outside. "We now recommend that children, even as they're going back to school, remain masked in heavily populated outdoor spaces," Soni said.

This includes playgrounds, where there are lots of kids in the same area.

Parents should also move toward better quality masks for kids — such as surgical masks or KN95s — if they haven't already, Aldrovandi said. She recommends the website cleanaircrew.org/kids-masks as a resource.

Experts don't recommend masks for children under 2 because of the risk of suffocation, so parents of kids in that age group might choose to socially distance more, depending on their comfort level.

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