Covid stress, disinfectants linked to early onset of puberty: experts
A steady increase in referrals for precocious puberty – the development of physical signs of maturity before the age of eight in girls and nine in boys – has been seen during the Covid lockdown at the Research Institute Medical Hirabai Cowasji Jehangir, Jehangir Hospital in Pune.
A team consisting of Dr. Vaman Khadilkar, Senior Pediatric Endocrinologist and Dr. Anuradha Khadilkar, Deputy Director and Consultant Pediatrician, among others, at the Pediatric Growth and Endocrinology Unit, conducted a study to assess possible associations of Covid lockdown with idiopathic central precocious puberty.
In the study published in the June issue of the ‘Journal of Pediatric Endocrinology and Metabolism’, researchers said they studied the early onset of puberty in children split into two groups – those first seen before lockdown compared to during lockdown.
During lockdown, 155 (5.1%; 146 girls) of 3,053 precocity referrals compared to 59 (1.4%; 54 girls) of 4,208 before lockdown were reported, suggesting an increase of 3.6 times of precocious puberty during confinement.
The children mentioned during the lockdown had more advanced skeletal maturity (bone age) and a greater proportion were in the later stages of puberty, with some even having early menstruation, suggesting that puberty not only started earlier, but also progressed faster in these children.
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It was previously thought that binge eating and reduced physical activity during lockdown caused excessive weight gain, which is known to stimulate the onset of puberty as young as age eight as well as progression. faster. But this study observed that despite the lockdown, the weights of children in both groups were similar, indicating other possible reasons for precocious puberty in these children, similar to findings seen in Italy and Turkey, Dr Khadilkar said.
Increased use of mobile phones, late hours of sleep, stress, anxiety and depression are all known to cause precocious puberty and these factors were prevalent during the lockdown.
A substance found in disinfectants and some soaps, triclosan, which is known to be an endocrine disruptor (EDC), may also have stimulated precocious puberty in children, the researchers said. However, more studies are needed to confirm this association, Khadilkar stressed. Endocrine disruptors are substances found in household items or in the environment that are known to alter the timing and progression of puberty.