The 9 Omicron symptoms to watch for in kids – as strain 'tears through nurseries'

OMICRON is spreading rapidly in the UK with new data showing Covid cases in nurseries are at an all-time high.

Schools are also under strain with increasingly lower numbers of pupils and staff needing time off to self-isolate.

Children are not at risk of severe Covid disease. But because they do not have vaccines, they have no protection from catching it.

They can carry the virus and pass it onto siblings, parents, older relatives and staff at schools and nurseries.

There were early reports from South Africa that children under the age of five may be at more risk of severe illness from Omicron than previous Covid strains.

Experts said they were being admitted to hospital at much higher rates than previously.

Although British scientists said it was something the UK needed to be prepared for if proven true, the same statistics have not been seen here.

SYMPTOMS OF OMICRON IN KIDS 

Early reports claim that Omicron symptoms may be different compared to previous strains, but there is nothing conclusive yet.

The NHS lists the three main symptoms of Covid in children and adults as:

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 

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The CDC – which provides information for Americans – has highlighted some Omicron symptoms based on early infections.

In a new report, it said the most commonly reported symptoms of Omicron appeared to be a cough (as described with previous strains), and:

4. fatigue

5. congestion or runny nose

Experts on the ZOE Covid Symptom Study app have urged parents to look for other common signs in children including:

6. headache

7. sore throat

8. loss of appetite

These symptoms can be caused by a number of illnesses, including the common cold.

But it is always worth at least doing a lateral flow test at home to check if it could be Covid.

The doctor who first sounded the alarm about the Omicron variant claimed that it causes different symptoms in adults. 

Dr Angelique Coetzee, chair of the South African Medical Association, said the main symptoms of Omicron that she had seen in young men were fatigue, headache and a new symptom:

9. body aches

Dr Coetzee described one “very interesting case” of a six-year-old girl who had “a temperature and a very high pulse rate".

These may be signs to look out for in your child – however this is just one anecdotal case.

Ntsakisi Maluleke, a public health specialist in the Gauteng province, told Reuters many patients were reporting "non-specific" flu-like symptoms like a scratchy throat. 

Ms Maluleke urged parents not to take flu-like symptoms lightly and to get their children tested.

But she reassured that children had “mild disease”.

Omicron appears to be milder than previous circulating coronavirus, the World Health Organization says, causing it to cause more cold-like symptoms.

This could be a result of vaccination – and children under 12 have not received jabs in the UK.

However, kids as young as five are reportedly set to be given Covid jabs as the fight against the Omicron variant ramps up – with the NHS "preparing for a mass vaccine drive" in schools.

Leaked proposals first reported by The Sun showed health bosses are preparing to vaccinate children aged between five and 11 next spring.

NURSERY AND SCHOOL OUTBREAKS 

It comes as figures show Covid cases in nurseries have risen by 38 per cent in one week following the emergence of Omicron.

The most recent figures released by Ofsted say 2,707 Covid notifications were registered in early years and childcare settings in the week to November 22 – the most recent data available 

It’s up from 1,960 in the week to November 14, and 1,403 in the week to November 8. 

UK health chiefs were not made aware of the Omicron variant in the UK until November 23.

It’s likely cases are significantly higher among youngsters since it began taking off in late November/early December.

Jonathan Broadbery, director of policy and communications, told Nursery World: "These are now the highest rates we have seen since reporting began in September 2020.”

Early Years Alliance, another educational charity with 14,000 members in England, also expressed concern.

Neil Leitch, the chief executive, told the same site that sharply rising cases over just one week are "extremely worrying" and would likely "create huge fear and anxiety for the early years work force".

He said nursery staff "cannot socially distance themselves from either the children in their care or their colleagues”.

Meanwhile, Omicron has led to more absences in children of school-age.

The Department for Education estimates that 2.9 per cent of all pupils (236,000) did not attend class for Covid-related reasons on December 9, up from 2.6 per cent (208,000 pupils) on November 25.

Among pupils absent for Covid-19 reasons, the main reason was a confirmed case of coronavirus, with around 109,000 pupils off for this reason, compared to approximately 106,000 pupils two weeks before.

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