Paediatric prehospital emergencies and restrictions during the COVID-19 pandemic: a population-based study.
Children are less vulnerable to serious forms of the COVID-19 disease. However, concerns have been raised about children being the second victims of the pandemic and its control measures. Therefore, we wanted to study if the pandemic, the infection control measures and their consequences to the society projected to paediatric prehospital emergency medical services (EMS) contacts.We conducted a population-based cohort study concerning all children aged 0-15 years with EMS contacts in the Helsinki University Hospital area during 1 March 2020-31 May 2020 (study period) and equivalent periods in 2017-2019 (control periods). We analysed the demographic characteristics, time of EMS contact, reason for EMS contact, priority of the dispatch, reason for transportation, priority of transportation, if any consultations were made or additional units required, any medication or oxygen or fluids given, if intubation was performed, and whether paramedics took precautions when COVID-19 infection was suspected.The number of paediatric EMS contacts decreased by 30.4% from mean of 1794 contacts to 1369 (p=0.003). The EMS contacts were more often due to trauma (+23.7%, p<0.05), dispatched in the most urgent category (+139.9%, p=0.001), additional help and the mobile intensive care unit were more frequently requested (+43.3%, p=0.040 and+46.3%, p=0.049, respectively). However, EMS contacts resulted less often in ambulance transport (-21.1%, p<0.001). Alarmingly, there were four deaths during the study period compared with 0-2 during the control periods.The number of EMS contacts decreased during the pandemic. Nevertheless, the children encountered by the EMS were more seriously ill than during the control periods.
Authors: Jelena Oulasvirta, Jussi Pirneskoski, Heini Harve-Rytsälä, Mitja Lääperi, Mikael Kuitunen, Markku Kuisma, Heli Salmi