Long COVID in infected children can last for at least two months: Lancet study

Children infected with the SARS-CoV-2 virus may experience symptoms of long-term COVID virus that last for at least two months, according to a study published Thursday in the journal The Lancet Child & Adolescent Health.

The largest study to date on long-term COVID-19 symptoms in children aged 0-14 used national samples of children in Denmark and matched COVID-19-positive cases to a control group with no history of the disease.

“The overall aim of our study was to establish the prevalence of long-term symptoms in children and infants, in addition to quality of life and absence from school or childcare,” said Professor Selina Kikkenborg Berg of Copenhagen University Hospital, Denmark. The results show that while children with a positive COVID-19 diagnosis are more likely to have long-term symptoms than children without a previous COVID-19 diagnosis, the pandemic has affected every aspect of the lives of all young people,” Berg said.

Further research into the long-term impact of the pandemic on all children will be important in the future, the researcher said.

Most previous studies of long-term COVID in young people have focused on adolescents, with infants and toddlers rarely represented.

The study sent surveys to the mother or guardian of children aged 0-14 who had tested positive for COVID-19 between January 2020 and July 2021.

In total, responses were received from nearly 11,000 children with a positive COVID-19 test result who were matched age and gender with more than 33,000 children who had never tested positive for COVID-19.

The surveys asked participants about the 23 most common symptoms of long-term COVID in children and used the World Health Organization’s definition of long-term COVID as symptoms lasting more than two months.

The most commonly reported symptoms in children aged 0-3 years were mood swings, rash and abdominal pain.

At 4-11 years of age, the most commonly reported symptoms were mood swings, difficulty remembering or concentrating, and rash, and at 12-14 years old, fatigue, mood swings and difficulty remembering or concentrating.

The results of the study found that children diagnosed with COVID-19 in all age groups are more likely to experience at least one symptom for two months or more than the control group.

In the 0-3 age group, 40 percent of children diagnosed with COVID-19 (478 out of 1,194 children) had symptoms for more than two months, compared with 27 percent of controls (1,049 out of 3,855 children).

For the age group of 4-11 years, the ratio was 38 percent of cases (1,912 of the 5,023 children) compared to 34 percent of the controls (6,189 of 18,372 children), and for the age group of 12-14 years, 46 percent of the the cases (1,313 of 2,857 children) compared with 41 percent of controls (4,454 of 10,789 children) had long-lasting symptoms.

The types of non-specific symptoms associated with long-term COVID are often experienced by otherwise healthy children; headaches, mood swings, abdominal pain, and fatigue are all symptoms of common ailments children experience unrelated to COVID-19.

However, the study found that children with a positive COVID-19 diagnosis were more likely to have long-term symptoms than children who had never had a positive diagnosis, suggesting that these symptoms were a presentation of long-term COVID-19.

This is supported by about a third of children with positive COVID-19 tests who experience symptoms not present before SARS-CoV-2 infection, the researchers said.

In addition, with increasing duration of symptoms, the proportion of children with those symptoms decreased.

Overall, children diagnosed with COVID-19 reported fewer psychological and social problems than children in the control group, they said.

In older age groups, the cases often felt less anxious, had less trouble sleeping and were less concerned about what would happen to them, the researchers said.

A likely explanation for this is the increased awareness of pandemic in older age groups, with children in the control group experiencing fear of the unknown disease and having more limited daily lives as they protect themselves from contracting the virus, she added.

(Except for the headline, this story has not been edited by federal staff and is automatically published from a syndicated feed.)

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