SARS-CoV-2 began the winter of 2019-2020. In Belgium, the first lockdown was implemented between March 18th and May 4th. The attendance at the pediatric emergency department (PED) decreased dramatically during this period.
Our study aimed to assess the impact of the lockdown on the attendance rate, to evaluate the delay between the onset of symptoms and admission to the PED and the cause of admission in 2020 and 2019.
This is a retrospective study. Attendance at the PED during the study period in 2020 (18 March - 4 May) was compared with the same period in 2019.
During the study period, the number of admissions to the PED decreased from 3,087 in 2019 to 783 in 2020 (IR 2020/2019: 0.25, 95%CI: 0.23-0.27). The median delay between symptom onset and admission to PED was longer in 2020 than in 2019 (3 and 2 days respectively, p<0.001). Children with comorbidities were 1.33 times more likely to attend the PED in 2020 (95%CI: 1.08-1.63).
Intoxication, burns, genitourinary and neurological conditions were relatively more common, while there were fewer diagnoses of gastrointestinal conditions and fractures.
ConclusionThe rate of attendance at the PED decreased during the lockdown, with a longer delay between symptom onset and admission to the PED. There is a difference in the distribution of diagnoses in 2020 compared to 2019. This study does not allow us to conclude an increased morbidity rate, but the collateral damage to children should not be overlooked