Visits to children's hospital emergency departments plummet during pandemic

AM HILT KIDS ER VISITS FALL PKG.transfer_frame_0.jpeg
Posted at 7:56 AM, Mar 11, 2021
and last updated 2021-03-11 08:57:12-05

NASHVILLE, Tenn. (WTVF) — The number of children brought to the emergency department at children's hospitals fell drastically during the COVID-19 pandemic, according to a new study by researchers at the Monroe Carell Jr. Children's Hospital at Vanderbilt.

Doctors said winter is typically a busy month in children's hospital emergency departments.

"Often times during the winter season, children's hospitals are filled with pneumonia, croup, influenza," Dr. James Antoon said.

But as the COVID-19 pandemic continued, Antoon noticed a trend at Monroe Carell Jr. Children's Hospital at Vanderbilt.

"Here in Nashville, we were seeing far less children being admitted to the hospital," he said. That observation led to a national study that was published this week. Vanderbilt researchers found that Children's hospital emergency department visits dropped by 42% during the pandemic and visits for respiratory illnesses fell 62%.

"For the common pediatric illnesses, like pneumonia, influenza, RSV infections in infants, it was drastically lower, over 80 to 90%," Antoon said.

Researchers can't pinpoint what exactly caused the drop, but Antoon said it is likely that the fall is driven by impact of pandemic restrictions.

"The measures taken during the pandemic, school closures, social distancing, mask wearing, very likely has stopped transition of other viruses like influenza and RSV in young children. I think it's safe to say that's at least having somewhat of an impact," he said.

Now Antoon hopes the data can help hospitals even after the pandemic.

"Moving forward this data would suggest that we should focus on community prevention, especially in that adolescent population."