Children’s hospitals are preparing for an increase in COVID cases after holidays

She said that while hospitalizations of children with coronavirus had increased during the Omicron outbreak, in line with an explosion of thousands of infections across Victoria, most children were only admitted for observation for short periods as a precautionary measure and then discharged.

“If we look at the proportion of how many cases there are in society, there are far fewer [hospitalisations] than we had expected. It has not increased to the extent that societal issues have increased. ”

With classes preparing to return from Monday, pediatricians have warned that schools are going an uneven month, but experts agree that the benefits of face-to-face learning outweigh the risks. Just over a third of those aged five to 11 are protected with their first COVID-19 vaccination.

Pediatrician for Infectious Diseases Robert Booy predicts that cases will increase as the virus spreads in schools before falling again in a few weeks. He said a wide range of safety measures, including regular rapid antigen testing and vaccination, would be combined to minimize risks.

“Younger children are very resilient, and unless they have a major medical problem, they will not get severe COVID-19 in more than a handful of cases,” he said. “Healthy children who receive COVID in the vast majority of cases will do so mildly or asymptomatically.”

The Royal Children's Hospital has treated about 30 to 60 new coronavirus cases a day during January.

The Royal Children’s Hospital has treated about 30 to 60 new coronavirus cases a day during January.Credit:Pat Scala

At the end of last week, nine children were at Royal Children’s Hospital’s 24-bed coronavirus ward, and no one was on intensive care with the virus.

There were about 13,000 active cases of coronavirus in children.

“We have seen a huge increase in cases and we are still within our capacity to take care of more children,” said Dr. McNab. “We have not come close to filling our coronavirus department.”

She said there had been a drop in intensive care units with Omicron. This happens after the advent of the Delta variant last year led to a small increase in teenagers in need of intensive care.

“It may be partly vaccination, it may be partly that Omicron is different in children or teenagers, but it’s really reassuring for us,” she said.

Dr. McNab said most children had the classic coronavirus symptoms, including sore throat, runny nose, fever, dry cough, soreness and pain or gastro-like symptoms such as vomiting and diarrhea.

She said that despite the increase in the number of children arriving at the emergency department earlier this year, it was still well below the number that would be reported during a typical winter. More than 200 children are currently treated in the emergency department every day against between 290 and 300 a day in the winter.

Dr. McNab urged parents or guardians whose children were tested positive for coronavirus in the coming weeks to contact their GP and book a telesealth interview in the first instance.

“Like all respiratory viruses, most children will have symptoms that mean they do not have to come and get emergency help,” she said. “But very rarely do children have to get into the hospital, and the message is that we still have plenty of capacity to see them.”

About one in 5,000 children is at risk of being diagnosed with a rare post-COVID condition in children – pediatric inflammatory multisystem syndrome – which is potentially fatal without appropriate medical attention.

It can develop in children between two and six weeks after getting the virus and occurs most frequently in people between six and 12 years of age. Symptoms include fever, rash all over the body, red eyes and red lips.

“We wanted to see a child [with the syndrome] every few weeks, so it’s still very rare when you look at the numbers across the state, ”said Dr. McNab. “But it is important to seek care if your child develops any of these symptoms.”


Despite a nationwide code-brown emergency that has been declared to relieve a health system that is stretched to the breaking point of the Omicron wave, Dr. McNab that contingency plans had been drawn up and that staff had been moved into the emergency department and the coronavirus department in preparation for an increase in cases.

She said she was convinced the health care system would cope with any increase in demand.

Dr. McNab urged parents with children who test positive to make sure their children drink plenty of drinking fluids to minimize dehydration and use paracetamol and ibuprofen to deal with any discomfort such as fever.

If a child’s symptoms continue to worsen or they have trouble breathing, seek medical attention.

She said that during previous COVID-19 waves, families were encouraged to only take their children to emergency rooms at the Royal Children’s Hospital and Monash Children’s Hospital, but now parents can take their child to any hospital’s emergency room across the state for to receive care.

You can contact the Coronavirus Health Information Line on 1800 020 080 or the on-call nurse on 1300 60 60 24 for more advice on your child’s symptoms, but for acute medical problems or in case of emergency always call 000.

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