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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

-- Avoid crowds of people. Suellen Hopfer, an assistant professor of public health at UC Irvine, recommended avoiding places where there are a lot of people gathered, especially indoors. She also recommended deferring travel plans.

-- Get kids tested. Kids get many colds, so it's important to test when they have symptoms to see if it's COVID-19, Soni said.

Testing in children is generally the same as adults, but the challenge is to get the child to cooperate. "Even before COVID, we would perform nasopharyngeal swabs in children, including babies, to diagnose respiratory viral infections," Aldrovandi said. "The virus is the same in children and adults, so rapid tests can be used in children."

Testing sites can vary in terms of safety, she said. "This virus is spread through the air so it is important to go to a testing site with good ventilation — outside or in your car — [and where] people are wearing high-quality masks and kept distanced."

Your pediatrician's office should also be able to test.

-- When they are eligible, get them vaccinated. Because COVID-19 is unpredictable, experts urge parents to vaccinate their kids. A Moderna pediatric COVID-19 vaccine for children 6 months to 5 years old could be authorized in late March or early April, and Pfizer and BioNTech are expected to submit data to regulators to support authorization of their vaccine in the first half of the year.

 

"You're preventing the possibility of long COVID and MIS-C," Soni said. "We should feel very confident in the safety of this vaccine to be giving it to these kids in this age."

Also, you're making it less likely your kid could spread the coronavirus. "It just makes you a lot less worried about it," Kirk Sell said.

-- Try to stay calm "Parents' anxiety can be sensed by young children," Aldrovandi said. "It is important that parents try and model how to react to stressful situations. Parents should try to decrease their own anxiety by staying focused on the present and not be overly concerned about worst-case scenarios. Establishing routines can help both parent and child."

"There's no zero-risk scenario," Kirk Sell said. Instead, she said, it's about having low risk and a life that works for you.

All these experts reiterated that most kids, if they get infected with the coronavirus — omicron or otherwise — will be OK. "We hope that they won't have to experience it," Talaat said. "But don't panic."

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