MADISON (WKOW) -- Nearly 3 million children have tested positive for COVID-19 in the U.S., and numbers across the country have risen sharply in recent weeks.
The American Academy of Pediatrics reports a 12% increase in the number of children who tested positive in the past two weeks.
Dr. James Conway, pediatric infectious disease specialist at UW Health, says this is because of relaxed pandemic restrictions.
"This is a sign that as we open up society in more areas of the country, we're going to have more kids that are going to be exposed to adults with COVID, and, unfortunately, are going to then contract the disease," he said Tuesday.
The same AAP data shows Wisconsin did not see as large of an increase in positive tests for children.
However, other metrics aren't as good of news for the state.
Nearly 91,000 children in Wisconsin have tested positive. That's the eighth-highest number in the country.
The state also ranks well above average when looking at child cases as a percent of total cases. Nationally, children are 12.8% of all COVID-19 cases. In Wisconsin, children are 15.5% of all cases.
That statistic looks at all states equally, which gives smaller states with smaller populations an advantage.
So, the AAP data also looks at the number of child cases of COVID-19 per 100,000 children in the population. The national average is 3,742 cases per 100,000 children. Wisconsin has a rate of 6,396.5 cases per 100,000 children. That's the fourth-highest rate in the country.
But there is some good news. Conway said even when children get COVID-19, they typically don't get as sick.
The AAP data reflects that, too. Wisconsin has recorded only two child deaths due to COVID-19.
Conway said there are certain symptoms parents should look out for if their children get COVID-19.
"When you have the acute viral illness, they need to watch for the same things that you'd watch for anybody with a respiratory illness," he said. Those include difficulty breathing, severe cough, high fevers and blueness around the mouth.
Even if those symptoms don't present, Conway said parents should watch for symptoms of Multisystem Inflammatory Syndrome.
"This is a syndrome that seems to show up two, three, four weeks after kids get over a COVID infection, and it's really their immune system has kind of gone overboard," Conway said.
He said MIS-C symptoms can include COVID toes and swelling of the hands, feet and face, but he said the most serious symptoms are rash, fever and body aches.
"It certainly needs to be evaluated if they see something like that," Conway said. "Often, these kids do end up needing to be hospitalized for treatment."
Conway said the widespread availability of vaccines is a light at the end of the tunnel, but he the importance of parents and children to maintaining stringent COVID precautions until then.
"People just need to make sure that they understand that now is actually not the time to loosen up," he said. "Now's the time [to] actually double down."