Omicron spike is big and scary, reaching a new level of infections that is quite literally off-the-charts. It also tends to cause milder COVID in adults and kids, with analyses pointing to as few as one-third as many infected people requiring hospital admission compared to Delta. Then again, the seven-day average for pediatric hospitalizations is 672 children per day, the highest at any point in the pandemic. More whiplash: Those who do end up in the hospital generally have milder cases, and your child is actually less likely to be hospitalized if they get infected with Omicron than if they had been infected with a different variant.
So how the hell are parent’s supposed to feel about Omicron right now? Not great, but certainly not panicked.
There are, after all, many more common risky things out there that parents should keep in mind. Looking at statistics shouldn’t send us all into a panic like Andy Samberg and his tinfoil-hat paranoid crew in You Only Live Once. Instead, stats should give perspective and help focus on what really matters.
There are lots of risks that you let your kid take on a daily basis and barely give a second thought about. Every winter before the pandemic started, you let your kid go to school without a mask despite the flu risk. You load your child into the car an uncountable number of times. You let your child swim all summer. All of these things are (currently) riskier than COVID.
This fact shouldn’t cause us to stop taking any risks at all. Instead, we take preventative measures. We get our children the flu vaccine, buckle them in, sign them up for swimming lessons. Similarly, we get our eligible kids the COVID vaccine, buy them high-quality masks, and schedule outdoor playdates.
COVID is all anyone is talking about right now – the flu, car accidents, and drowning are conversations left behind. The focus makes sense, given we’re in a pandemic that has killed more than 800,000 people in the U.S. But right now, for parents, it’s statistically misguided. Yes, it’s crucial to take precautions, but more so your kid isn’t spreading COVID to someone more vulnerable than to keep your child safe.
So the next time a parent brings up their Omicron fears, maybe shift the conversation to these other, larger risks for kids. Help us all be prepared for the things that pose the biggest risks to our kids.
The risk of the flu varies from year to year. But during the 2019-2020 flu season, one which was fairly bad, the CDC estimates that 434 children died. Compare that to COVID, which in nearly two years has killed 678 kids under age 18.
- Bacterial Sepsis
In 2019, 603 children under age 1 died of bacterial sepsis, according to the CDC. Neonatal sepsis occurs when the newborn develops a bacterial infection before, during, or after delivery. (Remember, COVID has killed 678 kids under 18 over the course of almost two years.)
In 2019, 630 kids aged one to 14 died by homicide, according to the CDC.
In 2019, 756 children under age 18 died from drowning, according to the CDC. This is the leading cause of death for children aged one to four, besides birth defects.
- Car Accidents
In 2019, 1,053 children aged 14 and under died in car accidents, according to the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration.
In 2019, cancer killed 1,060 kids between the ages of one and 14, according to the CDC.
- Home Injuries
Even hanging out at home is dangerous for kids. Each year, about 2,000 kids die as a result of injuries sustained at home, according to Stanford Children’s Health. The leading causes of unintentional home injury death are fire and burns, suffocation, drowning, firearms, falls, choking, and poisoning.
In 2019, about 2,600 teenagers died from suicide, according to Boston Children’s Hospital. That year, suicide was the leading cause of death among 13-year-olds. This old statistic doesn’t take into account how the pandemic has led to a rise in suicide attempts in older kids: The number of ER visits for suspected attempts increased by 51 percent in 12- to 17-year-old girls from early 2019 to early 2021.