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Research reveals children most at risk of contracting long COVID

The team analyzed data on 1,884 children with COVID-19 in eight countries.


health, children and pandemic concept - sick coughing girl lying in bed with teddy bear toy wearing protective medical mask at home
Long COVID affects around 2% to 10% of kids who caught the virus. (Ground Picture/Shutterstock)

By Mark Waghorn via SWNS

Children with at least four symptoms are most at risk of long COVID, according to new research.

The most common are fatigue or weakness, cough, difficulty breathing or shortness of breath.

Hospitalization for 48 or more hours and being aged 14 or older are other aggravating factors. The findings could help identify vulnerable individuals.

Lead author Professor Stephen Freedman, of the University of Calgary, Alberta, Canada, said: "We found in some children, illness with COVID-19 is associated with reporting persistent symptoms after three months.

"Our results suggest appropriate guidance and follow-up are needed, especially for children at high risk for long COVID."

The international team analyzed data on 1,884 children with COVID-19 in eight countries. They were tracked for 90 days between March 7, 2020, and January 20, 2021.

African american teen girl wearing face mask looking at camera at home. Mixed race teenager during pandemic quarantine concept. Children safety for covid protection, close up headshot portrait.
The most common PCCs were found to be fatigue and weakness. (Ground Picture/Shutterstock)

Long COVID was found in nearly 10 percent of hospital cases and five percent of children discharged from the Emergency Department (ED).

Prof Freedman added: "The most common post-COVID-19 condition (PCC) symptoms among infected children were respiratory such as cough, difficulty breathing, or shortness of breath and systemic like fatigue or weakness.

"Risk factors associated with PCCs included length of hospitalization, a higher number of symptoms at the first ED visit and older age. The most common PCCs were fatigue and weakness."

Children with COVID-19 usually have mild symptoms or none at all - with low hospitalization rates. But the risk and features of long COVID are poorly understood.

Co-lead author Prof Nathan Kuppermann, of the University of California, Davis, said: "Reported rates of long COVID in adults are substantially higher than what we found in children.

"Our findings can inform public health policy decisions regarding COVID-19 mitigation strategies for children and screening approaches for long COVID among those with severe infections."

The study in JAMA Network Open found nearly six percent of children who presented to ED reported symptoms of long COVID 90 days later.

Co-lead author Prof Todd Florin, of Northwestern University, Evanston, Illinois, said: "Our finding that children who had multiple symptoms initially were at higher risk for long COVID is consistent with studies in adults.

"Unfortunately, there are no known therapies for long COVID in children and more research is needed in this area.

"However, if symptoms are significant, treatment targeting the symptoms is most important. Multidisciplinary care is warranted if symptoms are impacting quality of life."

Previous research has identified other common symptoms of long COVID in children as headache, sleep disturbance, concentration difficulties and abdominal pain.

The eight countries in the new study were the United States, Argentina, Canada, Costa Rica, Italy, Paraguay, Singapore and Spain.

The condition has been found to occur in five percent of children with pre-existing health conditions compared to 0.2 percent of peers.

Long COVID is an umbrella term for symptoms that last more than 12 weeks. It has affected more than one million Britons, young and old.

Almost 13 million children have tested positive for Covid-19 since the start of the pandemic, according to the American Academy of PediatricsStudies suggest that between 2% and 10% of those children will develop long COVID.

Overall, 1 in 13 adults in the U.S. (7.5%) have “long COVID” symptoms, defined as symptoms lasting three or more months after first contracting the virus, and that they didn’t have prior to their COVID-19 infection

Lingering symptoms include fatigue, headaches and difficulties breathing.

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