“The feeling we have is that, suddenly, the children are all becoming sick at the same time”.
These are the words of pediatrician Joana Martins, one of the child-health experts interviewed by Expresso for an article about how ‘confinement and measures of prevention of the pandemic have weakened the immune system, making us (all) more vulnerable to infections.
“The effects are most obvious in children” whose immune systems are in the making.
Children need to come into contact with dirt (or put more scientifically: bacteria, microorganisms, viruses in general) in order to build immune systems that will carry them through the rest of their lives.
“All the sanitary measures necessary in a pandemic” have meant that this very necessary contact has been massively reduced, pediatrician Mário Cordeiro tells the paper, leading to babies and toddlers particularly becoming dangerously ‘vulnerable’.
Ironically, the youngest members of society – the one’s born during the pandemic – are now at risk from a respiratory virus (VSR) that is potentially much more harmful for them than SARS-CoV-2.
While SARS-CoV-2 infection will rarely develop in children into any serious form of Covid-19, VSR can precipitate acute bronchial infections that can see them having to be admitted into hospital.
And this is what has already started happening.
Says Expresso, in his 40 years of service as a pediatric doctor Alberto Caldas Afonso has “never seen anything like it in the Centro Materno-Infantil do Norte: many children with respiratory infections, in some cases very serious, being admitted to hospital every day during high summer, a time of year when traditionally A&E departments are much calmer.