Why children’s hospital emergencies have plummeted
QUEENSLAND Children's Hospital emergency department attendances have dropped dramatically during the coronavirus pandemic, with numbers down by about 40 per cent compared to the same period last year.
Department director Fiona Thomson said presentations for gastroenteritis were about half what they were at the same time in 2019 and numbers of children requiring treatment for infectious diseases were way down across the board.
"We've seen less of the usual respiratory illnesses that we would normally see at this time of year, so little babies with bronchiolitis, the wheezy preschool kids, children with asthma, we're just seeing less of everything," Dr Thomson said.
She credited the significant decrease in numbers to social distancing during the coronavirus crisis and people being more vigilant about hand hygiene and cough etiquette.
"Everybody's just so much more aware of it," Dr Thomson said. "There's less mixing and of course, the kids haven't been at school.
"I think there's also been a lot of messaging around: 'Don't go out if you're sick, even if you don't think it's coronavirus - if you've got any symptoms, stay at home, don't mix with other kids or families'. I think that has just meant that there's less illness circulating in the community."
Dr Thomson said flu numbers were also drastically reduced as a result of both social distancing and people heeding the call to be vaccinated this year.
"We've got an immunisation clinic at the hospital that's been packed with kids coming for their flu vaccination," she said.
Although the hospital continues to see similar numbers of children injured in car accidents as in past years, Dr Thomson said the emergency department was treating fewer sports injuries as a result of cancellations in weekend and club sport in line with public health restrictions.
With just 12 active cases of the novel coronavirus in Queensland, Dr Thomson said she felt "so lucky" to be living in Australia during the pandemic.
"The biggest risk now is for us all to become complacent," she said.
As Queensland children have gradually returned to school and with restrictions starting to be eased, Dr Thomson said her emergency department was seeing "a slow and steady increase" in presentations again but they were still not back to normal levels at this time of year.
She wanted to reassure parents it was safe to bring their children to the emergency department during the pandemic, with processes in place to protect patients, their families and staff.
"We have fundamentally changed the way we flow patients through our department … to make sure that we separate patients who potentially might be infectious," she said.
Queensland has had 48 cases of the new virus in children and teenagers out of 1057 known infections across the state, or about 4.5 per cent of total numbers.
Of those, just 13 were in children aged under 10.
Originally published as Why children's hospital emergencies have plummeted