Pediatrician Dr. Moriah Tarpey, who was recently hired by Southwest Health System, is concerned about the impact of COVID-19 on children.
Tarpey previously practiced pediatrics in Yakima, Washington, and in Grand Junction. She completed her residency at the University of Tennessee School of Medicine after earning her medical degree from Saint Louis University School of Medicine. She also attended college at St. Louis University and graduated summa cum laude with a dual major in biology and theology.
Tarpey responded to a Q&A from The Journal regarding the impacts and treatment of COVID-19 on children.
Parents are concerned about children contracting COVID-19. Could you explain a bit about treatment for children and what parents should be aware of?
As a pediatrician, she has been watching the statistics and case reports across the world for pediatric-specific information. Treatment in children is similar to treatment in adults in that it is symptom-based rather than a viral cure.
“The secondary harm it is causing to our educational process and pediatric mental health is unprecedented,” Tarpey said.
She explained that infection in children can range from no symptoms at all, though kids may spread virus to their family and can manifest cardiac complications despite lack of symptoms. COVID-19 can cause a rare but life-threatening illness called multisystem inflammatory syndrome in children, abbreviated MIS-C.
“Parents should be aware that this syndrome can arise several weeks after children are infected with the virus,” Tarpey said.
Symptoms in children include fever, belly pain, vomiting or diarrhea, rash, neck pain, red and/or cracked lips, red eyes, extreme tiredness, swollen hands or feet, bruising appearance to toes and swollen lymph nodes.
If a child develops these symptoms, parents should call a doctor right away.
Another consideration for children during and after COVID is return to physical activity.
“We are all working hard to get our kids enough exercise in the day. But in the setting of COVID-19 infection, there can be some circumstances in which a child should be medically cleared by a doctor before they return to high levels of aerobic activity,” Tarpey said.
She offered the following information:
Youths recovering from COVID-19 will have different paths to return to sports based on the severity of their illness. According to the Dec. 4 guidance from the American Academy of Pediatrics guidance, even children who are asymptomatic or have mild symptoms should be considered at risk for cardiac manifestations of COVID-19 related inflammation.Youths with moderate symptoms or who had a non-intensive care unit stay at a hospital should have an ECG and a cardiology consult with additional testing.Youths who have had severe COVID-19 or multisystem inflammatory syndrome in children should be restricted from exercise for three to six months and require extensive cardiac testing and cardiology clearance to return. Studies are finding significant rates of cardiovascular consequences after COVID-19 infection even in the most fit college athletes.“I feel we are really still seeing the tip of the iceberg when it comes to our understanding of this disease,” Tarpey said.
Kids are spreading COVID-19“Parents should be aware that children are developing a reputation these days for being great spreaders of COVID-19 disease,” Tarpey said.
“Doctors who take care of people dying of COVID-19 are seeing the tragic devastation and guilt that family members are facing knowing that their dying loved one’s only exposure was a child or grandchild with COVID.”
Tarpey encourages kids to wear their masks when in public.
“I know the masks are not perfect for prevention of transmission, but they really are the best thing we have now,” she said.
The COVID-19 vaccine has not been approved for youths under age 18 in the U.S. Tarpey said vaccine studies on children are expected to begin soon.
“As with any vaccine for children, I won’t be offering it to anyone else’s child until I’m fully comfortable giving it to my own children,” she said.