New study: Fewer kids went to the hospital for life-threatening injuries during the pandemic

Posted at 1:53 PM, May 10, 2021

Parents have had to juggle so much during the pandemic, including trying to balance working from home and parenting from home.

As more have parents stayed home, and their kids as well, more hazards have arisen. It has turned normal household items like batteries, pins, Legos, and coins into ingestion items. Kids want something to do, while many parents have had to balance watching their kids while also tending to work.

“[We get] a couple calls a week for these kind of things,” said Dr. Steven Rothenberg, the chief of pediatric surgery at Rocky Mountain Children’s Hospital in Denver. “I know of a couple [of children] in the region in the last six months who have died from button battery ingestion, so it’s very, very serious.”

According to a study published by the American Academy of Pediatrics in April, ER visits to children’s hospitals during the pandemic decreased by 45.7% as parents and guardians worried about the virus’ spread. It meant many of these life-threatening conditions went unattended.

“Most day care centers understand the risks of many of these things, and those things aren’t readily available,” said Dr. Rothenberg. “So, when you’re suddenly giving day care in your home and you’re trying to do your job, I think there probably is an increased risk.”

Julie McCarthy experienced that scare in January. Her 15-month old, Calvin, had managed to get his hands on the remote and ingest the small lithium battery. The battery had started to corrode and erode Calvin’s esophagus, and then it did the same to his trachea.

“That was probably the scariest night because they’re just hand-bagging him [to get him oxygen] so you just see this lifeless body,” recalled McCarthy.

McCarthy did exactly what doctors suggest doing: taking your child to the ER, even if they are asymptomatic. Doctors say difficulty breathing, wheezing, and drooling are all signs that your child may have swallowed something that is blocking their airway.

Doctors were able to push the battery into Calvin’s stomach and repair the damage, even though it has meant he has had to spend the last four months recovering in the hospital.

“The sooner we get them the better chance we have of not having significant injury,” said Dr. Rothenberg.