Sunday 03 October 2021
Beds in children’s clinics scarce
Respiratory infections are spreading among children
The respiratory syncytial virus can be particularly dangerous for young children. Currently, twice as many children with serious illness are treated in German clinics. Doctors worry about another surge in winter.
Runny nose, cough and fever: a striking number of children have been struggling with respiratory infections for a few weeks that are only expected in the winter months. Those under the age of six are especially affected, said Jakob Maske, spokesman for the Federal Association of Pediatricians. Due to the closures of nurseries and other corona measures last winter and spring, they have not yet come into contact with certain pathogens. “The infections are now being caught up.”
The Robert Koch Institute (RKI) reports a sharp increase in hospital admissions for respiratory syncytial virus (RSV) infections among one- to four-year-olds. This upper respiratory tract infection can be particularly dangerous for premature babies and previously ill children in the first year of life. According to the RKI, in the years before the pandemic in September, about 60 to 70 one to four year olds per week with severe respiratory infections were admitted to clinics, now there are twice that number. The RKI expects a further increase.
“Unfortunately, there is currently an escalation,” said Maske, who has a pediatric practice in Berlin. “We have a bit more sick children than usual at the time and fewer and fewer beds in children’s hospitals because there is a shortage of staff.” In the fall and winter, doctors care for seriously ill children. According to Maske, it is already very difficult to place small patients in the hospital. Another reason is that too few pediatric nurses have been trained. “The children’s clinics closed very early,” said Hanoverian pediatrician Thomas Buck, a board member of the Lower Saxony Medical Association. His patients would have had to move to clinics about 40 kilometers away.
Outbreaks in Israel and the US
Larger outbreaks of RSV among children were reported in Israel in May and in the United States, Australia and Japan during the summer months. The RKI therefore warned in the summer to prepare for a similar scenario. “As a rule, children encounter RSV every year and build up a certain level of immune protection,” explain the RKI experts. This help in fighting off the pathogens is now missing because there were almost no RSV diseases due to the corona measures last winter.
“We’re also concerned that there’s a flu wave,” Buck says. In the last half of the winter pandemic, with many hygiene measures and limited contacts, there was virtually no flu wave. Doctors hope that the willingness to get a flu vaccination for the coming season remains high. The pediatricians are calling for the daily life of children and young people to be as normal as possible after months of hardship. It is often a difficult decision for parents to send their child to daycare or school with a nosebleed or sore throat. Since the start of the pandemic, everyone with cold symptoms has been viewed skewedly and there is always a suspicion of a corona infection in the room.
“You have to make sensible risk assessments,” Buck said. “We want the children to finally go back to kindergarten and school and avoid unnecessary sick leave.” On the other hand, it is also about not overlooking a possible corona infection, if possible.