It has just been a year since many autonomous communities decided to close the classrooms of all schools. Little was known at the time about SARS-CoV-2 and it was thought that it could act the same as the influenza virus of which children are the main contagious.
The start of the course in September showed that this was not the case. Children are neither contagious nor more contagious than adults. Meanwhile, the little ones have shown numerous signs of their ability to adapt to what has been called the “new normal.”
But so many months of pandemic have also taken their toll .
Difficulty sleeping, fear of going outside, less exercise, more screens, increased overweight and obesity … These are just some of the consequences of confinement and the situation generated by the COVID-19 pandemic that Primary Care pediatricians have seen in your practice in the last few months.
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Although the changes are observed in all ages, boys and girls aged 7 to 12 are the most affected by anxiety, sleep disorders and weight gain.
“The pandemic has had a very notable influence on the healthy habits of children, and has affected all ages and social groups, ” explains Dr. Luis Carlos Blesa , pediatrician at the Valencia Serrería Health Center.
The specialist assures that “the impression of the pediatric group is that obesity and overweight in children has increased, and significantly . We may not yet have exactly quantified the intensity or the percentage of increase, but the evidence guides us on this path.
According to pediatric experts, this increase in weight among the smallest clearly responds to two factors derived from the mobility restrictions necessary to contain the coronavirus: the increase in sedentary lifestyle and the decrease in physical activity, “both in the recreational field and in the in sports ».
CHILDREN’S PSYCHOLOGICAL DISORDERS
But we are not only talking about physical consequences, the psychological ones are of great concern to child health specialists.
After months of confinement, Primary Care pediatricians have detected an increase in ” children’s anxiety: difficulty sleeping , fear of going outside … also sleep disorders and anxiety disorders due to separation with serious or hospitalized relatives” , explains Dr. Concepción Bonet , pediatrician at the Segre Health Center in Madrid.
Also in this area, it is too early to measure the psychological damage of the pandemic in children. «According to surveys of associations of psychiatrists and psychologists, 85% of the parents reported having had a good confinement with some mild discomfort in the children.
However, at the Miguel Hernández University (Elche) they publish that 67% of parents have reported psychological discomfort in their children. We do not know if it is a pathology or an adaptive process, ”says Bonet.
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In any case, the data that are appearing indicate that the mental cost of the pandemic in minors is important . Proof of this are the data offered, for example, from the Niño Jesús Hospital in Madrid, where 20% more urgent psychiatric consultations have been registered in the post-confinement period, or at the San Juan de Dios Hospital, in Barcelona, with a 40% more income in 2020 compared to 2019 in Psychiatry.
«These hospital emergencies have cared for more adolescents between the ages of 12 and 16, especially with eating disorders . But we still cannot interpret these data, since other centers, such as the Hospital de Santa Cristina in Madrid, which has also received psychiatric consultations, have noticed a decrease in consultations for adolescents “, emphasizes Bonet.
From the Spanish Association of Primary Care Pediatrics (AEPap) they consider that there is still time to act, recovering healthy habits and focusing in a special way on prevention.
«The role of the Primary Care pediatrician and pediatric nursing is and must always be relevant in all aspects related to child and adolescent health. And let’s not forget that our preventive role is just as important as our therapeutic one, ”emphasizes the doctor.