Covid-19: babies were less sick during their first birth … and this could be a problem

Many parents have noticed this: their children were much less ill than usual during the first birth. Very few colds, even fewer gastroes – or even lice! – and other fun things often brought from school in the backpack.

If we are always reassured in knowing that our children are healthy, paradoxically this is not good news according to Dr Hervé Haas, head of the pediatrics department at CHPG (Princess Grace Hospital) in Monaco.

Before explaining the reasons, return to the observation: “At the beginning of the first confinement we witnessed a collapse in the number of admissions in pediatric hospitals. Travel restrictions and the closure of schools prevented the circulation of a certain number of viruses or bacteria (responsible for gastroenteritis, ear infections, bronchiolitis, measles, pertussis)., urinary tract infections), in all countries. All acute infections disappeared during this period “.

But they hadn’t said the last word and are back in strength, with a rebound effect. Dr. Haas takes the example of bronchiolitis (caused by the respiratory syncytial virus – RSV).

“In normal times, we are seeing a big winter peak. However, with the birth, it did not take place. On the other hand, we have seen a sharp increase in hospital visits for this reason in the summer of 2020 in proportion to how much we have. RSV usually circulates very little this season. And when winter came (2020-2021, ed) the peak of bronchiolitis was even greater than in previous years, as if there had been a recovery in two and the disease affected a wider age group – not just children – as if the children who passed had caught it the following year. “

For foot and mouth disease syndrome, the same: “the peak was higher than in previous years and with some cases more severe”.

More risk of complications as you get older

Now that we understand the phenomenon, let’s rightly imagine that the same applies to chickenpox. Bank: “40% fewer cases in 2020 than in 2019”.

And that wouldn’t be good news: “It is to be feared that children who have not had chickenpox due to childbirth but also barrier gestures will have it later. However, the disease is less experienced and perhaps more risky as they age. The same is true for measles. In adulthood, complications can be significant. However, an epidemic rebound can be avoided if you have good vaccination coverage. “. Hence the advice: Check your children’s vaccination records.

And the famous gastroenteritis, so contagious and so feared by parents? The same! “The very first contacts with the rotavirus (at the origin of this disease, ed), when the child is very young are important. Here, too, one can fear an epidemic recovery after the pandemic. Has not yet seen a peak thanks – or because – the use of hydroalcoholic gel which prevents its spread. Once again, we may fear that when we have abandoned the barrier gestures and return to previous habits, some children have a more severe form of gastroenteritis “.

See the sequel coming? There is nothing to be happy about our loved ones being less sick because we can expect a boomerang effect.

Dr Hervé Haas also highlights the problem of pneumococcus, even to subscribers absent in the corridors of pediatric hospitals during childbirth.

Gold, “Pneumococcus is part of our pharyngeal microbiota and plays a role in stimulating the immune system. Traditionally it spreads at the same time as a viral infection: we are therefore used to having a spike in pneumococcal infections after the spike in flu.”

“We fear that because they have not been exposed and because the strains arriving are different, the children will have less good immunity. However, we have vaccines at our disposal against the more severe forms, as long as these could be administered. But also. there were delays during the confinement there and it is essential to catch up. “

Being sick can be good

“If more evidence is needed, just look at what happened recently in England with another bacterium, meningococcus, responsible for very severe meningitis. This bacterium also almost disappeared during confinement in all European countries, but in November 2021 the The Englishman observed a peak of type B meningococcal infection in adolescents at a level higher than that observed before delivery.

Being sick for an otherwise healthy child can also be good. “For example, when children in school regularly have colds, it trains their immune systems.”

Finally, the pleasant side that confinement has had in signing the cessation of contamination risks turning into a real problem that will return to us with more force if all barrier measures are lifted without thinking.

“It is in a sense an immune debt that will probably have to be repaid sooner or later but which can also, and fortunately, be reduced thanks to vaccination and some preventive measures such as the use of hydroalcoholic solutions”.

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