‘I am more worried for children than I have ever been’: Pediatrician reveals how pandemic is impacting kids

·3-min read

A Texas pediatrician has revealed her concerns that another wave of coronavirus in the US could be devastating for children in the country, saying she is “more worried” than ever for their wellbeing.

Heather Haq, an assistant professor of pediatrics at Baylor College of Medicine and a pediatric hospitalist at Texas Children’s Hospital in Houston, wrote an op-ed in the Washington Post detailing her concerns.

The doctor explained how she routinely cares for children admitted with Covid-19 at a children’s hospital in Houston.

She said minors are experiencing a range of symptoms from “newborns with fevers” to “school-age kids whose bodies are ravaged with inflammation” and “tweens and adolescents with Covid pneumonia”.

“There is this popular notion that covid doesn’t affect children – and my public health and epidemiologic training reminds me that on a population level, it’s true,” she writes.

However, the doctor cautions that she is more fearful for the health of children in this wave than in any other.

She says that the reality of being at the “bedside of children critically ill from covid and covid-related illnesses” creates a “certain dissonance”.

“These two perspectives battle in my brain as I make risk assessments for my own school-age child,” Dr Haq says.

Children are significantly less likely to become severely ill from coronavirus infection and are likely to experience mild symptoms.

However, they are not immune from the virus or guaranteed not to experience severe side effects of the infection.

The pediatric expert explains that “as a parent” she can’t predict why some children become “so incredibly sick from Covid while others have mild disease”.

“We don’t know why some go on to have lingering debilitation and symptoms for months, and others make quick recoveries,” the doctor writes.

“What I do know is that in this moment, as the highly contagious Delta variant becomes the predominant strain circulating and we enter another covid surge, I am more worried for children than I have ever been.”

The healthcare professional fears a spike in cases as a wave of infections brought on by the more transmissible Delta coincides with the reopening of schools, causing “large outbreaks in school settings”.

She also says that hospitals are struggling to cope with an uptick in admissions as a result of a resurgence of common viruses of childhood that had been suppressed as a result of pandemic health measures.

“What’s different this time is that children’s hospitals are also dealing with an unusual summertime surge in respiratory viruses,” she writes.

States that are seeing a rise in community transmission such as Arkansas are seeing a record increase in the number of admissions for Covid-19 in children’s hospitals.

"We’re seeing a real surge with the Delta variant that we did not see previously," Dr Rick Barr, chief clinical officer at Arkansas Children’s Hospital, told CNN.

He added: "This is the worst that we’ve seen it for kids, absolutely."

Dr Haq says that “one important step that families can take to protect their children of all ages is to ensure that all eligible household members over age 12 are vaccinated”.

The Centres for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) recommends that all children eligible to get a Covid-19 vaccination to help protect against the virus.

“Covid-19 vaccines are safe and effective,” they write on their website. They stipulate the shots have undergone the “most intensive safety monitoring in US history, which includes studies in adolescents”.

However, the pediatrician stipulates that other mitigation measures such as masks, physical distancing, testing, contact tracing, and quarantining should also be observed.

“If we abandon these crucial tools now, we are putting our children in harm’s way,” she says.

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