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COVID-19 Poses Potential Problems for Pediatricians

a child reacts in agony in a coronavirus pandemic illustration

By    |   Tuesday, 08 September 2020 08:35 PM

Pediatricians across the country are worried about how COVID-19 will affect their patients as schools reopen. Many are worried children are attending schools without proper precautions, such as wearing masks or observing social distancing.

Joanna Dolgoff, a pediatrician in Paulding County, Georgia told The Washington Post she was shocked when she saw Facebook images of school children in a crowded hallway not wearing masks and realized they were some of her patients.

"I got a sinking feeling in my stomach," she said. "These are my kids. These are patients I take care of."

Dolgoff, like other pediatricians, will need to provide a safe place for children of all ages to feel comfortable, and be able to diagnose common colds from COVID-19.

Early data downplayed the role of children in the coronavirus outbreak because they displayed few, or any, symptoms. But a new study adds to the growing body of evidence children might be acting as silent spreaders of COVID-19.

The latest evidence published in the Journal of Pediatrics found some children have high levels of the virus in their airways even if they are asymptomatic or have very mild symptoms. These levels appear to peak during the first three days of infection, and can be instrumental in spreading disease through the community, especially as school reopens.

"Some people thought that children may be protected," said study author Dr. Alessio Fasano, of MassGeneral Hospital for Children. "This is incorrect. They may be as susceptible as adults — but just not visible."

The new data is daunting and increases the burden on pediatricians as they wade through new territory.

"We are facing unprecedented challenges as the school year opens, and we're scrambling to figure out how to handle everything," Dolgoff said, according to the Post, adding the rule in her county is that masks are not required, nor is social distancing.

The American Academy of Pediatrics has posted a resource page with the latest updates on COVID-19 and kids. The latest data shows more than 500,000 children have been diagnosed with the virus.

Dolgoff said she and other physicians are expecting an increase in respiratory illnesses in their offices as the cold weather approaches and will have to make tough determinations on which symptoms require COVID-19 testing, especially when supplies of tests are limited.

She said she will err on the side of caution and quarantine children who might have COVID-19 if tests are not available, adhering to guidelines provided by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. She also worried about the mental and emotional toll the virus inflicts on children, saying anxiety, depression, and developmental regression are "rampant around the country," according to the Post.

Pediatricians must ensure proper protective personal equipment (PPE) is in place for both patient and physicians to ensure nobody gets sick in a medical office and people do not let their guard down while the virus is still circulating, said experts, who noted children have become very tolerant of PPE.

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Pediatricians across the country are worried about how COVID-19 will affect their patients as schools reopen.
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Tuesday, 08 September 2020 08:35 PM
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