COVID-19 pandemic brings unexpected pediatric consequences


Case 5

An adolescent female currently being treated with immunosuppressants arrived from home with fever. Her medical history revealed that the patient’s guardian recently passed away from suspected COVID-19. The patient was tested and is herself found to be positive for COVID-19. The patient is currently being cared for by relatives who also live in the same home. They require extensive education and teaching regarding the patient’s medication regimen, while also dealing with the loss of their loved one and the fear of personal exposure.

Takeaway: Communicate with families – especially those with special health care needs – about issues of guardianship in case a child’s primary caretaker falls ill.

  • Discuss with families about having easily accessible lists of medications and medical conditions.
  • Involve social work and child life specialists to help children and their families deal with life-altering changes and losses suffered during this time, as well as fears related to mortality and exposure.

Case 6

A 3-year-old boy arrived covered in bruises and complaining of stomachache. While the mother denies any known abuse, she states that her significant other has been getting more and more “worked up having to deal with the child’s behavior all day every day.” The preschool the child previously attended has closed due to the pandemic.

Takeaway: Abuse is more common when the parents perceive that there is little community support and when families feel a lack of connection to the community.1 Huang et al. examined the relationship between the economy and nonaccidental trauma, showing a doubling in the rate of nonaccidental head trauma during economic recession.2

  • Allow families to know that they are not alone and that child care is difficult
  • Offer advice on what caretakers can do if they feel alone or at their mental or physical limit.
  • Provide strategies on your practice’s website if a situation at home becomes tense and strained.
Dr. Rachel Hatcliffe, Children's National Hospital, Washington

Dr. Rachel Hatcliffe

Case 7

An adolescent female arrived to the ED with increased suicidality. She normally follows with her psychiatrist once a month and her therapist once a week. Since the beginning of COVID-19 restrictions, she has been using telemedicine for her therapy visits. While previously doing well, she reports that her suicidal ideations have worsened because of feeling isolated from her friends now that school is out and she is not allowed to see them. Although compliant with her medications, her thoughts have increased to the point where she has to be admitted to inpatient psychiatry.

Takeaway: Anxiety, depression, and suicide may increase in a down economy. After the 2008 global economic crisis, rates of suicide drastically increased.3

  • Recognize the limitations of telemedicine (technology limitations, patient cooperation, etc.)
  • Social isolation may contribute to worsening mental health
  • Know when to advise patients to seek in-person evaluation and care for medical and mental health concerns.

Pediatricians are at the forefront of preventative medicine. Families rely on pediatricians for trustworthy and accurate anticipatory guidance, a need that is only heightened during times of local and national stress. The social isolation, fear, and lack of resources accompanying this pandemic have serious consequences for our families. What can you and your practice do to keep children safe in the time of COVID-19?

Dr. Angelica DesPain is a pediatric emergency medicine fellow at Children’s National Hospital in Washington. Dr. Rachel Hatcliffe is an attending physician at the hospital. Neither physician had any relevant financial disclosures. Email Dr. DesPain and/or Dr. Hatcliffe at [email protected].


1. Child Dev. 1978;49:604-16.

2. J Neurosurg Pediatr 2011 Aug;8(2):171-6.

3. BMJ 2013;347:f5239.


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