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Science And Nature

Covid-19 pandemic associated with early onset of puberty in a few girls

By Elizabeth Hlavinka

An increased number of girls are going through premature sexual development amid the pandemic

An elevated amount of girls ‘re going through premature sexual development amid the pandemic

Dan Kenyon 2013

The covid-19 pandemic could be triggering early puberty in a few girls. Several studies suggest the outbreak is increasing the amount of girls going right through premature sexual development and experts are unsure why.

In the most recent of a string of studies, researchers at the University of Bonn, Germany, reported the way the amount of girls identified as having early puberty at an individual medical centre remained constant between 2015 and 2019, at less than 10 cases per year.

This a lot more than doubled to 23 in 2020, once the covid-19 outbreak took hold worldwide, rising further still to 30 in 2021, in accordance with results presented at The European Society for Paediatric Endocrinology 2022 meeting today.

The German researchers arent the only real ones to see cases double. In the pre-covid year, we’d 28 children start treatment and in the covid year, we’d 64 children start treatment, says Karen Klein at Rady Childrens Hospital and the University of California, NORTH PARK.

Similar results are also reported in Turkey and Italy.

Early puberty is rare, affecting one in 5000 to 10,000 children in pre-pandemic times. For each 1 boy, it affects 10 girls. The reason why behind this sexual disparity are unclear.

No matter an individuals sex, early puberty is associated with short stature in adulthood, and also serious health issues, such as cardiovascular disease, type 2 diabetes plus some cancers. Early puberty in addition has been connected with certain mental health issues, such as for example anxiety in boys and depression in girls.

Sezer Acar at Dr. Behet Uz Childrens Education and Research Hospital in Izmir, an writer of the Turkish study, says: Previously, I [treated] a couple of patients per month because of precocious [early] puberty, but during this time period [the first stages of the pandemic before his study was published], I had to take care of several patients weekly.

Along with an increased amount of girls starting puberty early, age onset could have also declined.

In the German study, pre-pandemic puberty onset occurred at age 6.8, normally, weighed against 7.6 the type of diagnosed through the covid-19 outbreak. A statistical analysis suggests this wasnt the opportunity finding.

We realize stress could cause earlier puberty, so thats certainly on top of the set of whats going on, says Klein.

Another thing people immediately began to consider was, well, many people are in the home not exercising just as much and perhaps its weight gain, because we realize rapid weight gain could cause earlier puberty. However in our study and in a few other studies, we didnt note that the kids were heavier.

Increased screen time and changes in sleep cycles because of remote learning may be at play, says Paul Kaplowitz at the Childrens National Hospital in Washington D.C.

These factors werent assessed in every the studies. However, in a follow-up study to the Italian paper, researchers discovered that girls who have been identified as having early puberty during lockdown had more disturbed sleep and later bedtimes than those diagnosed pre-pandemic.

Some have questioned whether SARS-CoV-2 itself is to blame. Inflammation of the nasal cavity has been documented in both covid-19 cases and folks going right through early puberty. Although this hypothesis cant be eliminated, especially because many childhood covid-19 cases are mild and could be missed, it appears unlikely, says Kaplowitz.

I dont think the result of covid on female puberty is fixed to girls who actually had the infection, says Kaplowitz. Especially since, in the last stages of the pandemic, children were significantly less more likely to become infected than adults.

The pandemic aside, age puberty onset has been declining by around three months per decade since 1977, although there’s little data on the result of other traumatic events like wars or recessions.

Medication can reduce hormone levels and stunt sexual development for quite some time. However, that is generally only recommended if early puberty is likely to cause emotional or physical problems.

Some doctors hope that the return of in-person schooling and children adapting to pandemic-related challenges will slow the rate of early puberty.

Once the data is viewed for days gone by year, particularly in places where kids virtually all returned to school and life returned to more normal, I’d predict that the rate of precocious puberty will go back to what it turned out previously, says Kaplowitz. But we obviously dont know.

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