Severe cold cases rising among young children may be linked to COVID-19 lockdowns

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As children have returned to school in recent weeks, doctors have noticed an increase in severe cases of colds in some children from two of the most common viruses known to cause upper respiratory infections: rhinoviruses and enteroviruses.

That’s according to a recent report from Chicago – though the situation isn’t limited to that area.

These viruses usually cause only mild upper respiratory symptoms in healthy adults.

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“However, we have seen a greater number of young children and infants with respiratory diseases than we usually do” [see] in the summer — and more children with serious illness need hospital and ICU admissions,” Dr. Czer Anthoney Lim, director of pediatric emergency medicine at Mount Sinai Beth Israel in New York City, told Fox News Digital.

A child gets a checkup from a doctor.

A child gets a checkup from a doctor.

“What’s interesting is that we’ve had a kind of potpourri of viruses,” Dr. Natalie Lambajian-Drummond of Yorkville, Illinois recently told CBS Chicago, adding that she even had to take in a child by ambulance.

While it’s possible to catch a cold at any time of the year, most common colds occur in the winter and spring, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC).

Common Respiratory Viruses

Many respiratory viruses can cause the common cold, but rhinoviruses are the most common, according to the CDC.

While there are many types of enteroviruses, most cause only mild illness, according to the Cedars-Sinai website.

Another respiratory virus that causes cold symptoms is respiratory syncytial virus (RSV), but it can cause serious illness in infants.

These viruses usually occur in the summer and fall and cause the “summer flu,” but can cause other illnesses, such as a rash known as hand, foot, and mouth disease.

They usually infect children because most adults have developed immunity to them, the website added.

Another respiratory virus that causes cold symptoms is respiratory syncytial virus (RSV), but it can cause serious illness in infants.

A mother checks her sick daughter's throat.

A mother checks her sick daughter’s throat.
(iStock)

“Historically, the respiratory syncytial virus season started sometime in the middle to late fall and would extend into early spring,” says Dr. Mike Smith, a pediatric infectious disease specialist at Duke University School of Medicine.

“RSV can cause bronchiolitis – inflammation of the small airways – and cause respiratory problems requiring hospitalization for children in the first year of life.”

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He told Fox News Digital that the RSV season has already started this year in some parts of the country.

“Children at higher risk of serious illness after RSV include those who were born prematurely (<29 weeks gestation) or who have chronic lung disease, certain types of congenital heart disease, certain neuromuscular disorders, and immunosuppression,” he added.

He also reminded people that the flu, commonly referred to as “the flu,” is another common respiratory virus that comes every year. “Flu shots are now available to anyone 6 months and older, so it’s important to be protected,” he said.

Cold Symptoms

Among the first symptoms of a cold are a sore throat and runny nose, followed by coughing and sneezing, the CDC added.

Other symptoms may include headaches and body aches.

But most people get better in a week to 10 days, according to the CDC.

A woman suffers from a cold.  said dr.  Marc Siegel, a Fox News contributor, "As the masks came off and kids started interacting more, we started seeing more of these infections, even out of season [over the summer]some mild, some more severe."

A woman suffers from a cold. dr. Marc Siegel, a Fox News contributor, said: “As the masks came off and kids started interacting more, we started seeing more of these infections, even out of season. [over the summer]some mild, some more severe.”
(iStock)

“Omicron is associated with more upper respiratory symptoms than previous variants,” says Dr. Marc Siegel, a Fox News contributor and professor of medicine at NYU Langone Medical Center.

Siegel told Fox News Digital that this makes it more difficult to distinguish omicron from other upper respiratory infections, such as rhinovirus, RSV and enteroviruses, especially in young children.

“As the masks came off and kids started interacting more, we started seeing more of these infections even in the off-season. [over the summer]some mild, some more severe,” he said.

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This will now raise the possibility that other respiratory viruses cause typical cold symptoms compared to the past two years — when many health care professionals associated “every sore throat, every sinusitis, every cough with COVID,” Siegel added.

Colds and COVID-19 Restrictions

Traditionally, the people who get a serious illness, such as pneumonia, are those “with weakened immune systems, asthma or respiratory diseases,” according to the CDC.

But some young children’s immune systems have not built up immunity to the common cold due to the limitations of the COVID-19 pandemic.

When young children are infected with the common cold by certain respiratory viruses, some may develop more serious infections today, medical professionals say.

When young children are infected with the common cold by certain respiratory viruses, some may develop more serious infections today, medical professionals say.
(iStock)

So when young children are infected with colds from certain respiratory viruses, some can develop more serious infections. “I would say the kids under 5 are kind of a group to watch,” Lambajian-Drummond warned on CBS.

“A lot of the younger kids we see have had much tougher courses when they get these viruses.”

The immune systems of some young children have not built up immunity to the common cold due to the limitations of the COVID-19 pandemic.

“There could be multiple explanations for this uptick, including COVID-19, enterovirus D68, and decreased innate immunity,” added Lim, who is also an associate professor of emergency medicine, pediatrics and medical education at the Icahn School of Medicine at Mount Sinai. .

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“While COVID-19 in children generally presents as mild illness, a small number of children develop severe illness – with only 7% of children under 5 years of age vaccinated and attending a mask optional in schools, this group is particularly susceptible.”

He also told Fox News Digital that limited options for in-person childcare and school have reduced exposure to common diseases that can build innate immunity in young children.

Epidemiology

Millions of Americans get colds every year, with adults getting an average of 2-3 colds a year. But children tend to have more infections, according to the CDC.

“The common cold is the number one reason children miss school and adults miss work,” the CDC said on its website.

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There is no cure for the common cold, so treatment focuses on symptoms, according to the CDC.

Prevention is key

To reduce the chance of catching a cold, the CDC recommends these simple tips: Wash your hands often with soap and water for at least 20 seconds. Avoid contact with sick people. And do not touch the eyes, nose or mouth with unwashed hands.

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If you or your children have cold symptoms, the agency also recommends calling your doctor for the following reasons: symptoms that last longer than 10 days; unusual or serious symptoms, such as a fever or your child is listless; your child is younger than 3 months.

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