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UW expert busts common myths about kids & COVID-19

Published: Aug. 9, 2021 at 11:49 AM CDT|Updated: Aug. 9, 2021 at 5:54 PM CDT
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MADISON, Wis. (WMTV) - A UW health pediatrician is addressing common misunderstandings about kids and COVID-19.

Dr. Gregory DeMuri is a professor of pediatrics at University of Wisconsin School of Medicine and Public Health and a pediatric infectious diseases specialist. He’s addressing some of the most common myths he’s heard circulating.

One is the claim that kids don’t get seriously sick from COVID-19. Dr. DeMuri said although rates of hospitalization and death are lower among kids than adults, children can experience severe illness from COVID-19.

“Many are regular, healthy kids. Probably the most common underlying condition is being overweight and that’s a pretty common condition in children in Wisconsin and throughout the United States. Some have immune system issues, but many don’t, and that’s the concerning thing here,” said Dr. DeMuri.

He added that kids can develop long-term symptoms or conditions after having COVID-19, even if they just had a mild case.

“These are really tough, sad situations,” explained Dr. DeMuri. “These kids have fatigue, chronic shortness of breath, headaches and they’re just not able to function.”

Like many ‘long-hauler’ cases in adults, symptoms in children can last several months.

“There’s not a whole lot that can be done for them, unfortunately. You know the virus has already done its damage and so it’s just a matter of time for them to get better and it’s taking a real long time,” told Dr. DeMuri.

Another myth is that masks can restrict a child’s breathing or cause CO2 poisoning. Dr. DeMuri says oxygen and CO2 molecules are so small, that they flow easily through a mask. Masks help trap and block respiratory droplets that may contain COVID-19.

Another myth Dr. DeMuri is addressing: the vaccines for teens were rushed and are not safe.

According to UW Health, the qualifications for emergency use authorization of the COVID-19 vaccine in teens are the same as those for adults. Trails and subsequent data must prove the effectiveness and safety of the vaccine before it will be approved.

Dr. DeMuri added that side effects in kids are rare and closely monitored. One side effect that has been seen in children is called myocarditis.

“It’s an inflammation of the heart and it sometimes presents as chest pain. It tends to occur shortly after a dose of the vaccine. Fortunately, it resolves fairly quickly and we haven’t seen any long term effects from that in kids and it appears to be quite rare,” explained Dr. DeMuri.

With children under the age of 12 currently not eligible to get vaccinated, Dr. DeMuri said time is of the essence to vaccinate those who are able and protect those who can’t yet protect themselves.

“Not vaccinating your child who is eligible is a sin of omission. If they get COVID that’s a lot worse than any rare side effect from the vaccine,” said Dr. DeMuri.

UW Health encourages any parent with questions or concerns to reach out to their family doctor or their child’s pediatrician.

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