Long-COVID in Children: It's a Thing
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COVID-19 may be causing long-term symptoms in children, according to a study that provides preliminary evidence that children can suffer from long-COVID as can adults, with symptoms lasting for months after their initial SARS-CoV-2 infection. One large cohort study showed that 76% of adults reported at least one persistent symptom 6 months after SARS-CoV-2 infection.

To learn more about long-term effects of SARS-CoV-2 infection in children, researchers surveyed caregivers of 129 patients who were younger than 18 years and had a confirmed COVID-19 diagnosis. The researchers used a questionnaire that asks about respiratory symptoms, fatigue, nasal congestion, muscle pain, and other symptoms.

More than 50% of the children had at least one symptom that persisted 4 months or longer after diagnosis. Nearly a quarter reported three or more such symptoms. Of the patients who experienced long-COVID, 42% reported that their symptoms interfered with everyday life.

Pediatric infectious disease specialist Danielle Zerr, MD, MPH, is hesitant about interpreting the newly reported data, inasmuch as the study lacked a control group. "Nasal congestion any time of any year is common in kids." In addition, fatigue is difficult to assess during a year when children weren't going outside. "A control population is really important when you're talking about nonspecific signs and symptoms," she said.

"No one is an expert in long-COVID at this point. It's an emerging clinical syndrome," Danziger-Isakov said. Researchers are collecting data on a much larger cohort of patients and are following them over time to take more objective measurements. At least one clinical trial by the National Institutes of Health is investigating long-term effects of COVID in adults, and another is studying severe COVID complications in children.

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