CLEVELAND – The pandemic has burdened the health system with many curveballs. And one of them is what health trends doctors in northeast Ohio see when it comes to children.
Certain diseases are seeing an increase while others, like asthma, are being controlled in ways that we have not seen before.
Dr. Abdulla Ghori has been a pediatrician for 38 years, spending most of his time at the MetroHealth Medical Center. He is also Professor of Pediatrics at Case Western Reserve University.
Ghori said that in the past 10 months since the COVID-19 pandemic began, their children’s clinics have seen a significant decrease in asthma, ear infections, rashes, insect bites, injuries and seasonal conditions like hand, foot and mouth disease.
“Probably seen fewer than a handful [of hand-foot-mouth]. While I’ve seen a handful every day in the past. That’s how significant the decline was, ”said Ghori.
And he said they found that the decline is not due to children getting sick and not seeking care – but rather that they appear to be healthier and the spread of disease in daycare and school settings has decreased due to social isolation.
What they are seeing is a sharp rise in childhood obesity.
“Because they are constantly in front of the computer to study virtually, they do not go to school, no gym at school, the weather is bad,” said Ghori.
He said he was concerned because, as so many know, gaining weight is easy – losing it can be a lot harder.
Long-term consequences for children include diabetes, kidney and heart problems, and cholesterol problems.
There’s a similar story at Rainbow Babies and Children’s Hospital University Hospitals: Asthma and seasonal illnesses have decreased, but they’re seeing more children with coronavirus there.
“We are undoubtedly seeing increasing numbers in northeast Ohio,” said Dr. Charles Macias, who leads emergency pediatric medicine.
From 2.2% at the start of the pandemic to a positivity rate of over 25% now, he said.
Fortunately, doctors say hospitalization and death rates are much lower than those of adults.
Macias said they had seen an increase in cases of multi-system inflammatory syndrome in children with coronavirus and are still seeing it, more than 10 months after the pandemic, and doctors say they are learning more every day.
“What will be the long-term effects on the heart, on the lungs and on the neuralgic systems? These are things that are unknown to us, ”said Dr. Princess Ogbogu, Director of Child Allergy and Immunology at Rainbow Babies and Children’s.
This is why they say it’s important to keep focusing on prevention that they know is working.
You’ve heard it countless times by now: wearing masks, washing hands, social distancing – especially for our children.