Cork doctor: Child respiratory illnesses down as a result of Covid-19 measures

Cork doctor: Child respiratory illnesses down as a result of Covid-19 measures

Dr David Mullane, Consultant Paediatrician and Clinical Director for Paediatrics, at Cork University Hospital said that the decrease in viruses and flu has been one of few positive offshoots from the pandemic.

CORK University Hospital is experiencing a dramatic fall in admissions from children with respiratory issues compared to previous winters as a result of Covid-19 health measures.

That is according to consultant paediatrician and clinical director for paediatrics at Cork University Hospital, Dr David Mullane. 

The frontline worker said that last winter saw an average of 10 bronchiolitis admissions a night. Presentations of the illness have now all but disappeared, with the exception of one admission three months ago. 

The common lung infection in young children and infants normally occurs during the winter months and leaves a number of young patients in need of oxygen. 

He said that the decrease in viruses and flu has been one of few positive offshoots from the pandemic.

"Normally this is a very busy time for us," he said. 

"Every winter we are slammed by viruses in children. 

"We get a lot of bronchiolitis which is a virus in young infants where they get breathless and wheezy. The symptoms are similar to Covid-19. This year we've seen no bronchiolitis - bar one young patient three months ago - and we haven't seen any flu. 

"That is highly unusual for this time of year and we can only put it down to the implementation of public health measures for Covid."

He said the condition has similarities to Covid-19.

"The virus for bronchiolitis is transmitted the same way as Covid-19 so last year we would have been full of infants under two with breathing difficulties who were on oxygen," he said. 

"Bronchiolitis is the main reason for hospitalisations of young children around the world. Normally it takes two to three weeks to recover from but there will always be a proportion of children who get very sick and end up on ventilators. Kids in these situations are getting the same support for their breathing that adults get for Covid."

Dr Mullane remarked that the few children who have been treated for Covid-19 at the hospital made full and fast recoveries.

"The few children with Covid who were admitted haven't been very sick and made it home quickly," he said. 

He added that the majority of children suffering from Covid-19 will not require hospitalisation.

"Undoubtedly, kids can get this but it's usually either mild or asymptomatic. The odds of kids ending up in hospital are very low when compared to adults."

However, he stressed the importance of preventing what he described as indirect Covid casualties.

"Covid in adults will make up the bulk of pressure on hospitals," he said. "Our main concern is that children are now presenting later to hospital than they might normally have. Children with what turns out to be tumours, bad pneumonia or other conditions have presented later than they would have pre-covid. 

This is because they are worried about the public health guidelines. If a child is very sick it's probably not going to be Covid. Hesitation to visit GPs and hospitals is probably our main concern right now. 

"We want to get that message out there so there are no Covid casualties as a result of people avoiding healthcare. That's the main problem we are seeing now and it's important that we don't take our eye off the ball."

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