YOUNG children with Omicron are developing a specific symptom that usually points to another condition, experts have said.
A number of kids under five who catch the variant seem to be suffering with a bad cough.
It’s a type of cough usually associated with croup – which sounds like a harsh barking noise.
This type of cough is generally not harmful, but is unpleasant for parents to hear and can naturally cause worry.
It comes as a string of hugely positive studies show Omicron is milder than other strains, with the risk of hospitalisation 50 to 70 per cent lower than with Delta.
Covid booster jabs protect against Omicron and offer the best chance to get through the pandemic, health officials have repeatedly said.
Doctors in the US have said it makes sense for Omicron to be causing this sort of a cough, because the variant settles higher in the respiratory tract.
Previous strains of the virus would head deeper into the lungs, which was why it would cause a more severe illness.
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Dr Buddy Creech, a paediatric infectious disease expert and director of the Vanderbilt Vaccine Research Program, told NBC News: “Little kids’ airways are so narrow that it takes far less inflammation to clog them.”
This is why when youngsters breathe with such inflamed airways, it can easily irritate and spark a cough that sounds like a dog or seal.
Dr Creech said that he and his colleagues have noted “croup-like presentations” in young children positive with Covid, adding “there’s that characteristic barking cough”.
But another expert, Dr Amy Edwards – who has also noticed an increase in croup-like coughs in children with Covid – said it’s less of a worry.
She explained: “As paediatricians, seeing more kids with croup and bronchiolitis is oddly reassuring, because we’ve been dealing with those conditions for our entire careers.
“Croup can be scary to hear, but it doesn’t mean there is any problem with the lungs.
“The main treatment is to keep the upper airways open and clear until the inflammation subsides.”
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Omicron is widely seen as fairly mild in comparison to Delta, generally producing a cold-like illness, with adults not seeing coughs as often.
Symptoms in kids are not as well reported, but among the top signs noted so far are:
1. a high temperature
2. a new, continuous cough – this means coughing a lot, for more than an hour, or three or more coughing episodes in 24 hours
3. a loss or change to sense of smell or taste
5. congestion or runny nose
7. sore throat
8. loss of appetite
9. body aches