Disproportionate reduction in respiratory vs. non-respiratory outpatient clinic visits and antibiotic use in children during the COVID-19 pandemic

Noga Givon-Lavi, Dana Danino, Bart Adriaan van der Beek, Amir Sharf, David Greenberg, Shalom Ben-Shimol

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review


Background: The COVID-19 pandemic led to improved hygiene and reduced social encounters. Near elimination of the activity of respiratory syncytial virus and influenza viruses were observed, worldwide. Therefore, we assessed the rates of pediatric outpatient clinic visits and medications prescribed at those visits during the coronavirus disease 2019 (COVID-19) pandemic and pre-COVID-19 period (2016–2019). Methods: Monthly and annual incidence rates for respiratory and non-respiratory diagnoses and dispensed prescription rates were calculated. Acute gastroenteritis (AGE) visits were analyzed separately since the mode of transmission is influenced by hygiene and social distancing. Results: Overall, 5,588,702 visits were recorded. Respiratory and AGE visits declined by 49.9% and 47.3% comparing the COVID-19 and pre-COVID-19 periods. The respective rate reductions for urinary tract infections, trauma, and skin and soft tissue infections were 18.2%, 19.9%, and 21.8%. Epilepsy visits increased by 8.2%. Overall visits rates declined by 21.6%. Dispensed prescription rates of antibiotics and non-antibiotics respiratory medications declined by 49.3% and 44.4%, respectively. The respective declines for non-respiratory antibiotics and non-antibiotics were 15.1% and 0.2%. Clinic visits and prescription rates reductions were highest in April–May, following the first lockdown in Israel. Conclusions: COVID-19 pandemic resulted in a substantial reduction in respiratory outpatient clinic visits and dispensed respiratory drugs, with only a mild reduction seen for non-respiratory visits. These trends were probably driven by COVID-19 mitigation measures and by the profound disruption to non-SARS COV-2 respiratory virus activity.

Original languageEnglish
Article number254
JournalBMC Pediatrics
Issue number1
StatePublished - 1 Dec 2022


  • Antibiotic use
  • COVID-19
  • Pediatric outpatient clinic visits

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Pediatrics, Perinatology, and Child Health


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