‘We knew it was going to happen when in-person learning resumed’: Midland pediatrician weighs in on coronavirus

State & Regional

Students waking in the hallway at Tibbals Elementary School place their arms in front as a reminder to socially distance in Murphy, Texas, Thursday, Dec. 3, 2020. Texas Gov. Greg Abbot’s statewide mask order does not mandate face covering for children under the age of 10, allowing some school districts to not require masks for children leaving the choice of mask use up to the parents. (AP Photo/LM Otero)

Midland, Texas (Nexstar)- Midland pediatrician Dr. Debbie Reese spoke to the community Thursday about the rise in young patients diagnosed with COVID-19. 

“This isn’t a surprise to us. The number of cases in pediatric patients has risen exponentially. We knew it was going to happen when in-person learning resumed, when more parents went back to work, more parents needed daycare, when extracurriculars resumed. The Delta variant is thought to be more easily transmitted and it may be affecting more young people in a serious fashion than the previous COVID subtype,” Reese said. 

Reese said she has seen coronavirus cases in patients of all ages, from newborns to teens. However, most of the children she has treated have not had serious illness. 

“It’s actually more like a bad cold or a flu,” Reese explained. “A lot of children complain of sore throat. They may have a headache for several days. The cough is kind of a hack-y cough. A lot of the older kids complain of fatigue, there can be some mild gastrointestinal symptoms. 

Others complain of chest tightness, and some older kids have reported a loss of taste and smell, according to Reese. 

“I think the message is you should assume that all children are going to be exposed to COVID…and they are going to spread the virus,” said Reese. 

That potential exposure has many parents asking about testing. Reese said parents often bring in their children as soon as they are notified of exposure, and that early testing may not be the best idea. 

“There’s a high risk that is a false negative,” Reese said. 

Instead, parents should wait until their child has had symptoms for about three days. Before that, the antigen test may not detect the virus. 

For those who do test positive, there is no specific treatment other than Tylenol or Advil for fever or pain, hydration, and rest. However, Reese said some patients with asthma may benefit with an intensified asthma regimen. Monoclonal antibody therapy is limited to children over the age of 12 who have underlying health conditions such as obesity or heart disease. 

When it comes to pediatric patients, another worrisome side effect of the ongoing pandemic is mental health, according to Reese. 

“I do think we need to worry about children’s mental health as well as their physical health,” Reese said. 

According to the doctor, she has seen academic delays, delays in social skills, increased anxiety, school avoidance, eating disorders, self-harm, and depression in her patients since the beginning of the pandemic. 

Because of the concern about mental health, Reese advises this, “Take precautions, but go out and live your life and learn about something other than COVID.”

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