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Omicron appears to cause croup in children under 5 - Business Insider

  • Some children infected with the Omicron variant are experiencing croup-like symptoms, NBC News reported.
  • Croup is an infection in the upper airway that causes a harsh cough that sounds like barking.
  • It's generally harmless and easy to diagnose, doctors told NBC News.

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The Omicron variant of the coronavirus appears to cause croup in some children under 5, NBC News reported.

Croup is generally harmless and easy to diagnose, doctors told the news outlet, but it can shock parents who've never been exposed to it. It presents itself as a barking cough that sounds like a dog or a seal. It's an infection in the upper airway, according to the Mayo Clinic, caused by inflammation of the larynx and trachea in children.

It might be common for children to develop croup if they get infected with the Omicron variant, which often settles higher up in the respiratory tract, doctors told NBC News. 

The airways, therefore, swell up easily in children. "When that happens, there's that characteristic barking cough," said Dr. Buddy Creech, a pediatric infectious disease expert who's identified "croup-like presentations" in children who've tested positive for COVID-19.

"Little kids' airways are so narrow that it takes far less inflammation to clog them," Creech said.

Children who are infected and who have developed croup will often produce a cough with a harsh sound, caused by breathing through inflamed airways. 

Doctors elsewhere have also said they've seen cases of croup come up in COVID-positive children. 

In Alabama, for example, one doctor said most of his patients under 2 are presenting with croup-like symptoms.

"Toddlers have this raspy and barky cough that we're not seeing with the other variants. We're also seeing something called Bronchiolitis, it is a respiratory illness that causes some kids to have wheezy symptoms and raspy cough," Dr. Peily Soong with Children's of Alabama said in an interview with CBS 42.

Croup is easy to diagnose, doctors told NBC News. 

"Croup is a bread and butter pediatric diagnosis," said Dr. Mark Kline, chief physician at Children's Hospital New Orleans. "Infectious croup is one of the first diseases you learn about when you're an intern in pediatrics."