New behavior, new risks
Doctors are also seeing medical issues arise because of pandemic-induced changes in our behavior. In late May, the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention reported an outbreak of salmonella linked to backyard chickens, which have become more popular during the pandemic. “The case count is growing at a concerning rate,” a C.D.C. spokesperson said about the reports through mid-June.
With families taking more hikes than usual, it’s possible that doctors will see more cases of Lyme disease and other tick-borne infections this summer, too. “We presume that people are outside more, and it’s likely we will see higher numbers than usual, but that remains to be seen as we continue through the summer,” said Victoria McGahan, a public health educator for New York’s Columbia County Department of Health, a county that has among the highest rates of Lyme disease in the country.
Some pediatricians report that they have been seeing lots of rashes recently, too. “The week before heading into Memorial Day weekend, I saw a huge increase in rashes,” Dr. Conley said. Many, she noted, were eczema or atopic dermatitis, both of which flare up during allergy season, especially when kids spend lots of time outside. Dr. Conley has also seen a huge uptick in juvenile spring eruption, a sun-induced skin condition that can arise in kids in the springtime.
It’s also possible that some new medical issues are being directly caused by the coronavirus. Dr. Scott Krugman, M.D., a pediatrician at the Herman & Walter Samuelson Children’s Hospital at Sinai in Baltimore, Md., said that his hospital has recently treated a surprising number of kids with new-onset diabetes. “We have admitted a steady stream of children over the past few months,” he said.
Some new research suggests that Covid-19 could increase the risk for new-onset diabetes, so it’s possible these cases are coronavirus-related. As Dr. Sanjoy Dutta, Ph.D., the vice president of research for the JDRF (formerly the Juvenile Diabetes Research Foundation), explained, the cellular protein that is the primary docking site for the coronavirus is found on pancreatic beta cells and other cells involved in metabolism. If the coronavirus infects these tissues, sugar metabolism could be affected, he said, causing diabetes-like symptoms.
While there are plenty of ways kids can get sick right now — even if they’re not leaving the house — most of these illnesses, thankfully, aren’t medical mysteries. Doctors say they add up when considering the way people’s behaviors have changed in the pandemic, and the way common infections and other conditions develop in kids.
As for my family, we finally solved the enigma of “The Rash.” When my husband took our daughter to a pediatric dermatologist, she needed only one look at her face to make a diagnosis. “It’s eczema,” the doctor said. Go figure.