COVID-19 infection in children
A group of nationally prominent paediatric clinicians and researchers, including Dr Dan Hawcutt of the MRC Centre for Drug Safety Science, has published an article in Lancet Respiratory Medicine about COVID-19 in children.
Dr Hawcutt is a senior lecturer in paediatric pharmacology at the University of Liverpool, and honorary consultant in paediatrics at Alder Hey Children’s Hospital. He is the clinical lead on the NIHR Alder Hey Clinical Research Facility, undertaking early phase research into new medicines in children. Dr Hawcutt is also a member of the Medicines and Healthcare Regulatory Agency Pharmacovigilance Expert Advisory Committee on Pharmacovigilance, providing paediatric expertise.
The article, published in Lancet Respiratory Medicine on March 27, 2020, addresses the growing concern across the UK amongst medical professionals, the general public and, in particular, the parents of children with underlying health conditions.
"Mainstream and social media are important for sharing information and uniting people during difficult times of social distancing and isolation. There are huge advantages to being able to spread information throughout a population at an unprecedented rate, including public health messages, morale-boosting stories, and tips and ideas generated by members of the public. With this rapid spread of information, however, comes the risk of misinformation. The pressure to keep up with breaking news has led to a reduction in checking of integrity of facts before reports are published, and due to the nature of social media, political and personal viewpoints can drive a narrative that undermines public health efforts or cause confusion."
The article goes on to discuss the need to communicate well with children and families in hospital.
"Personal Protective Equipment will look strange to us, but it will be absolutely terrifying for children, many of whom will have heard about COVID-19 in the news or might even know of an adult with the disease. We need to be compassionate and precise with our language and move from classifying children as high-risk to children with pre-existing conditions, in guidelines, the media, or in scientific publications."
The paper highlights the importance of avoiding misinformation and the misinterpretation of data.
"At a time of such great uncertainty and anxiety, the truth is one of the most effective tools we have."