BALTIMORE (WJZ) — The Omicron variant is taking its toll on children. Pediatric hospitals in parts of the U.S are filling up fast, and rates are up in Maryland too, with child hospitalizations spiking within the month of December alone.

According to the CDC, the rate of hospitalizations among children ages 17 and younger in Maryland on December 2, 2021 was 0.05% of 100,000 patients, but the rates rose, and on December 26, it was at 0.25% per 100,000 population.

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Dr. Aaron Milstone, a pediatrician at Johns Hopkins University School of Medicine attributes the rise to two factors – the first being that the Omicron variant is a highly contagious variant.

The second is because children are getting together with others during the holiday season, often indoors, and not wearing a mask.

As of Tuesday, there are nineteen children in the hospital battling COVID in Maryland.

“Kids are increasingly vulnerable to get COVID,” said Dr. Milstone, adding “we’re seeing lots of kids with congestion, sore throat, runny nose.” He said if your child has any flu-like symptoms, to assume it is COVID until they can get tested along with everyone else in the household.

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AJ and his six-month-old baby, Blake, just got over COVID but said it wasn’t fun. Blake had mild symptoms including congestion.

Dr. Milstone said “many kids are not that sick but they are very contagious and it’s being spread quickly within families.” He said masking is one of the main defenses children have from getting COVID along with as many outdoor activities as possible.

It’s partly why seventh-month-old Teddy isn’t allowed indoors. His father, Graham, said anytime they go to an indoor restaurant or bar, Teddy isn’t allowed to come.

But Graham and his son spent Christmas with relatives and they’re hoping they come out of the gathering without contracting the virus. “We’re not outta the safety zone yet but we all feel ok so far,” said Graham.

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Dr. Milstone said the best way to ensure everyone’s safety is at the first sign of any symptoms, that’s the time to hunker down at home, isolate and get tested.

Annie Rose Ramos