Kids With COVID-19: Complications and the Long-Term Health Impact

Pediatric critical care physician Dr. Kris Deeter shared insights from the front lines of caring for children with COVID-19 and the impact of the pandemic on kids.


Air Date: September 29, 2021

Moderator: Suzanne P. Clark, President and CEO, U.S. Chamber of Commerce

Featured Guests: Dr. Kris Deeter, Pediatric Intensivist, Renown Regional Medical Center

Early in the pandemic, children were not seen as particularly vulnerable to COVID-19 or as a serious source of viral spread. Now, more than a year and a half later, we are beginning to see the long-term complications and health impact on children who have contracted COVID-19, as well as challenging conditions in pediatric critical care units.

In a recent Path Forward panel discussion with the U.S. Chamber of Commerce Foundation, Dr. Kris Deeter, who specializes in pediatric critical care at Renown Children’s Hospital, shared insights on the current state of pediatric units during COVID-19 and the challenges Americans under 18 are facing in the midst of the COVID-19 pandemic.

Recent Surges in COVID-19 Are Challenging Hospitals Across the Nation

Dr. Deeter noted that the first few waves of COVID-19 in pediatric units were a “good sort of challenging” — watching webinars and learning how to most effectively care for the children who became sick with COVID-19. However, the recent surges have proven much more difficult with a loss of staff, winter viruses, and an influx of patients with other issues.

“We've lost staff,” said Dr. Deeter. “We are dealing with huge staffing shortages, [so] it's a different challenge with a smaller core of staff … [and] it's not just COVID filling our units right now … my unit right now is full of RSV, rhinovirus, enterovirus, adenovirus ... all of those other viruses take a lot of care and take up a lot of beds in our smaller units and pediatric units.”

“Right now my ER is packed,” Dr. Deeter continued. “We have at least eight children down there waiting for beds in acute psychiatric units. And those beds just don't exist due to staffing or availability of those types of facilities.”

Complications Are on the Rise Among Children With COVID-19

With the recent surges of COVID have also come more complications, one of which is a multi-system inflammatory syndrome in children (MIS-C), an issue in which COVID enter’s a child’s body and the body overreacts.

“These children were exposed to COVID a month ago,” Dr. Deeter explained. “Maybe they didn't really have symptoms from it, but it definitely entered their bloodstreams, got into their bodies and their body's immune system reacted to that virus. And it basically overreacted in some way.”

“We know that it's creating … problems in multiple organs,” she continued. “We have kids that are coming in with problems in their brains … we have a lot of children who are having effects in their heart … some of them are having kidney problems. The most common presentation is actually GI.”

Unvaccinated Children Are Among the Majority of Pediatric COVID-19 Patients

In Dr. Deeter’s experience, the vast majority of pediatric patients over the age of 12 she and her partners admit to the hospital have been unvaccinated. She also notes that parents feel guilty for not getting the vaccine themselves and passed the virus to their children who could not get the vaccine.

“I'm hearing heartbreaking stories from parents who just feel so guilty that they didn't think it would affect their kid,” Dr. Deeter said. “They thought they were making a choice for themselves to not get a vaccine. And instead, now they're watching their child land in an ICU room, very sick, because they made that choice and did not vaccinate and protect them.”


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