Children’s hospitals in Dublin are under pressure with an “unprecedented” number of children attending emergency departments for this time of year.
Temple Street, Crumlin and Tallaght hospitals are seeing "huge numbers" of children presenting with seasonal winter viruses, Children's Health Ireland (CHI) has confirmed.
"We had over 620 patients in 24 hours on Monday, which is a significant record for us and way above any previous numbers," Dr Patrick Fitzpatrick, consultant in paediatric medicine at CHI told The Irish Times.
“That has sustained over the last couple of weeks and is increasing,” he said.
Hospitals expect “big surges in winter, like all departments,” Dr Fitzpatrick said, but medical professionals were “concerned because this is quite early in the season for us to see it”.
There has been an influx of children suffering in particular from respiratory syncytial virus (RSV) and other seasonal viruses that can cause bronchiolitis.
The number of children attending emergency departments could be attributed to the lockdown ending, and that there are “a number of children who have lived most of their lives under lockdown who never experienced viral infections in the past,” he said.
Additionally, parents were reporting difficulty in accessing their GP. “Covid-19 has an overlay on that as well,” Dr Fitzpatrick said.
Hospitals were doing their best to manage social distancing and other Covid-19 infection control measures, which made it challenging to see such large numbers of patients.
Most patients did not require admission to hospital, and on one day last week, all patients were sent home, Dr Fitzpatrick said.
“It is great news that they didn’t require admission but from our perspective the hospital is very busy and we still have pressure on beds,” he said.
Parents should expect that most children under fiver or six years old will experience up to 12 infections per year.
“That’s normal and they tend to cluster during the winter months. Every few weeks young children at this time of year will have a fever, or a diarrhoea or a vomiting bug,” Dr Fitzpatrick said.
If parents are able to manage their child’s symptoms at home, that is “ideal”, but when medical advice is needed the first port of call should be a GP or local pharmacy.
“If at any stage they are concerned their child is very unwell, of course, we’re here, but we want to protect our resources for the most ill,” he said.