Hospital admissions for common childhood infections in England dropped by as much as 94% during the first year of the Covid-19 pandemic, according to the first major study of its kind.
Doctors have previously reported anecdotally how Covid measures such as lockdowns inadvertently led to children being better protected against other illnesses.
Now a large study by the University of Oxford has revealed the sheer scale of the “dramatic” fall in hospital admissions for a whole range of non-Covid infections in the 12 months after March 2020.
Researchers found there were “substantial and sustained” reductions in admissions for common and severe childhood infections, most likely due to social distancing measures, school and workplace closures, and travel restrictions. Other measures such as enhanced cleaning, better hand hygiene, and the use of face masks may have also contributed to the reduction.
Altogether, tens of thousands fewer children were admitted for bronchiolitis, meningitis, flu, tonsillitis and pneumonia and other conditions as England went into lockdown, schools closed and children’s social contacts significantly reduced. The findings were published in The BMJ.
Some children with pre-existing conditions such as asthma were also “protected from severe and potentially life-threatening infection”, the study found. Before the pandemic, exacerbation of asthma caused by acute respiratory infections was one of the most common reasons for hospital admission in children.