Parents of children with serious illnesses are failing to bring them to hospital out of fear their youngsters will catch Covid-19, according to a leading doctor.
Dr Sanjay Patel, a consultant in paediatric infectious diseases at Southampton Children’s Hospital, said fewer severely ill children were being brought to its emergency department with conditions such as appendicitis, dehydration and sepsis.
He said that some parents were assuming that all illnesses were being caused by coronavirus or were not seeking healthcare due to fears over catching the virus.
He has now helped develop national guidance on children’s health to enable parents to assess when they should be seeking help.
It consists of a red, amber and green traffic light system advising parents of which symptoms require them to seek urgent medical advice and the options available to them.
Dr Patel said: “These are extremely challenging and worrying times for families and I can’t stress how important it is to follow the Government advice about social distancing in order to slow down the speed of Covid-19.
“However, I’m really worried there is a very real risk that some children with illnesses such as appendicitis, dehydration or even sepsis are not being brought to see healthcare professionals as quickly as they would be normally.
“We are seeing fewer children than we would expect to see at this time of year, particularly through our emergency department, and those we are seeing who do not have Covid-19 are more severely unwell.
“We’ve seen evidence of this in Hampshire as well as across the country.”
He continued: “We know that the message about Covid-19 is so powerful and parents are putting most children’s illnesses down to this.
“The other issue is that they are just too scared to bring their child to see a healthcare professional because they are worried that they might pick up Covid-19.
“Therefore, it is really important for parents to recognise that Covid-19 is not causing severe infection and illness in most children.”
He added: “If your child is unwell don’t assume they have Covid-19, please take a look at the resources we’ve developed and if your child has any of the red or amber features seek help urgently.”
The guidance, produced in conjunction with the Royal College of Paediatrics and Child Health, can be found at: www.rcpch.ac.uk/sites/default/files/2020-04/covid19_advice_for_parents_when_child_unwell_or_injured_poster.pdf