As the highly transmissible COVID-19 variant Omicron carries a record number of cases, vaccinated and even boosted individuals test positive. School systems are moving classes back online, airlines cancel thousands of flights as pilots and flight attendants test positive, and test locations are overrun with huge crowds as we all rethink and revise our masking and social distancing comfort zones.
“The concern is that it is much more contagious than previous variants, making it more likely for us and our children to get it,” said pediatrician Dr. Elena Shea. “The number of cases has exploded.”
As the Omicron variant continues to spread, parents and children will inevitably test positive. So, what should you do if you’re one of them? We spoke with doctors and medical experts about the steps and proper procedures to perform after receiving a positive test. Here’s their advice.
First of all, what do we know about the severity of this variant in children?
Doctors agree that Omicron generally appears to be less severe than earlier variants, such as Delta, but it’s too early to know for sure.
“We are still in the data collection phase regarding this,” said Dr. Jessica Madden, board-certified pediatrician and neonatologist and medical director of Aeroflow Breast Pumps. “We are certainly seeing more children in hospital with Covid-19 right now than at any other time during the pandemic, but it is unclear whether this is due to so many positive cases versus it actually causes more severe disease in the pediatric population.”
One thing we do know for sure is that this variant is much more contagious than previous variants, meaning there will definitely be more cases, which is always a concern for doctors and hospital systems.
What should you do if you are not vaccinated and test positive?
Ideally, one parent could isolate on a separate floor of the house or even isolate outdoors, while a non-ill parent or caregiver takes care of the household.
“We recommend insulating if possible, but we know how difficult that is. I know I couldn’t do it at home,” said Dr. shea. “If isolation is not possible, the parent should wear a mask in the house at all times, eat separately from the family and try to limit contact.”
dr. Shea also recommends following the latest CDC guidelines for unvaccinated individuals who test positive, along with warning anyone you may have come in contact with during your infectious period, which is two days since your first symptom or positive test. . In addition to testing everyone in the home once a parent or caregiver has tested positive, then testing everyone again, three to five days after the first positive test.
If you are vaccinated and test positive, what should you do?
Regardless of vaccination status, doctors agree that you should take the same precautions if you are not vaccinated.
dr. Nkeiruka Orajiaka, an emergency medicine pediatrician, recommends quarantining family members for five days and then getting tested, in addition to isolation.
“This not only protects us from serious illness from Covid, but also makes us available to care for our children if the family gets sick,” she said. “But it also creates a cocoon effect for young people.”
Isolation helps reduce the chance of infection, and while vaccination has been proven to lower the risk of contractions, Dr. Madden that vaccinated positive individuals can still pass the virus on to their children.
What should you do as a parent if you are exposed to someone who has tested positive?
Coming into contact with someone who has tested positive for Covid-19 can be just as alarming as testing positive, but Dr. Shea says wearing a mask in your home is the best way to prevent the spread.
“Trying to isolate is helpful and anyone who is sick should try to stay in a designated sick area,” she said. “Have a private bathroom if possible, eat separately. But we recognize how difficult that can be, especially if you have small children who may not really understand what is happening. Do your best.”
What precautions can your household take to prevent someone from testing positive?
Doctors are clear that the best way to avoid testing positive for Covid-19 is to get everyone in your household who is eligible, vaccinated, and boosted.
dr. Madden also recommends incorporating and encouraging a healthy lifestyle.
“Do your best to lead a healthy lifestyle, including eating a wide variety of nutritious foods, getting plenty of exercise, and spending time outdoors with sunshine,” she said.
COVID-19 is not going anywhere, and with children under the age of five still unable to be vaccinated, doctors agree that staying vigilant, safe and doing your part by getting vaccinated and masked is the best way to protect yourself and those around you.
“Most parents of children under the age of five are tired and stressed because the children are not yet vaccinated,” says Dr. Orajiaka. “The best we can do to protect this population is to vaccinate ourselves, wear our mask and limit our exposure and exposure of our young people to visitors.”
Before you go, check out our favorite cough and cold remedies (all natural!) for kids: