Early impacts of the COVID-19 pandemic on children with pediatric rheumatic diseases

Eur J Rheumatol. 2022 Oct;9(4):185-190. doi: 10.5152/eujrheum.2022.21133.


Objectives: The experiences of children with pediatric rheumatic diseases (PRD) during the initial phase of the COVID-19 pandemic have not been well-documented. We sought to determine the effects of the COVID-19 pandemic on protective behaviors, healthcare access, medication management, and education among an international cross-sectional parental survey of children with PRDs.

Methods: The COVID-19 Global Rheumatology Alliance Patient Experience Survey was distributed online, and parents of children with parental-reported PRD, with or without COVID-19 infection, were eligible to enroll. Respondents described their child's demographics, adoptions of protective behaviors, healthcare access, changes to immunosuppression, and disruptions in schooling.

Results: A total of 427 children were included in the analyses. The most common rheumatic disease was juvenile idiopathic arthritis (40.7%), and most children were taking conventional synthetic diseasemodifying antirheumatic drugs (DMARDs) (54.6%) and/or biologic DMARDs (51.8%). A diagnosis of COVID-19 was reported in five children (1.2%), none of whom required hospitalization. Seventeen children (4.0%) had stopped or delayed their drugs due to concern for immunosuppression, most commonly glucocorticoids. Almost all families adopted behaviors to protect their children from COVID-19, including quarantining, reported by 96.0% of participants. In addition, 98.3% of full-time students experienced disruptions in their education, including cancelations of classes and transitions to virtual classrooms.

Conclusion: Despite the low numbers of children with PRDs who developed COVID-19 in this cohort, most experienced significant disruptions in their daily lives, including quarantining and interruptions in their education. The drastic changes to these children's environments on their future mental and physical health and development remain unknown.