Alarming number of children not going to pediatric visits out of COVID-19 fears

The American Academy of Pediatrics says clinics are not seeing the normal number of visits they usually would. It's a staggering decrease that could put children in more danger than parents realize.

"Pediatricians are seeing about 20 to 30 percent of the normal number of patients than what we are used to seeing because they are afraid of coming in," Dr. Sally Goza, American Academy of Pediatrics president, said.

Goza says vaccine numbers have plummeted.

She fears parents won't get their child's vaccines, especially the flu vaccine, which could cause a serious second wave of infections on the country.

Not only that, she says some kids may face mental health issues that a parent could miss.

"We are going to have a lot of anxiety and depression because of that because they are not going to hang around their friends. They are going to be anxious when we do loosen things up, like is it really safe to be around other people? And there is going to be a lot of grief about all the things they've missed, their school year, their sports, their proms, their graduations," Goza said.

The AAP says there are some serious medical concerns if parents continue to skip pediatric visits:

  • Mental health problems in children and teens, including increased suicide attempts
  • Flare-ups of asthma and other chronic conditions
  • Delayed or skipped newborn health checkups, including screenings for jaundice and failure to thrive -- conditions in which a few days can mean life or death for an infant
  • Lower rates of immunizations including for measles and pertussis -- highly infectious viruses that could return at the worst time in communities already threatened by COVID-19
  • Delayed diagnoses and treatments for common childhood illnesses from ear infections to leukemia

Despite criticism, this week Harris County Judge Lina Hidalgo issued a mandatory mask order for anyone over the age of 10 who goes out in public.

On social media, many asked why younger children were excluded.

Dr. Goza said it's difficult to make sure young children wear masks properly, and when used incorrectly they can be more dangerous.

"We know it's hard to keep masks on young children. We don't recommend them for kids under 2 just because of breathing issues, but over age 2 and in those younger children, it's hard for them to keep that mask on their face. They will pull them down off their nose, they will chew on them, they'll do other things or always touching their hands on those masks," Goza said.

Goza says you should call your child's pediatrician if you have any fears about visiting them. She says many appointments can be done through telemedicine or drive-up checkups.

The AAP has information about recognizing anxiety and depression in your child, here.
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