WASHINGTON - A large analysis published last week in the journal Pediatrics underscores the toll long Covid can take on children, in some cases leading to neurological, gastrointestinal, cardiovascular and behavioural symptoms in the months after an acute infection.
“Long Covid in the US, in adults and in kids, is a serious problem,” said Dr Ziyad Al-Aly, chief of research and development at the VA St. Louis Health Care System and a clinical public health researcher at Washington University in St. Louis, who studies the condition but was not involved in the new report. He said the paper, which drew on numerous studies of long Covid in children, was “important” and illustrated that the condition can affect multiple organ systems.
The new review suggested that 10 per cent to 20 per cent of children in the United States who had Covid-19 developed long Covid. However, Dr Suchitra Rao, a paediatric infectious disease expert at Children’s Hospital Colorado and co-author on the paper, said that there are “lots of caveats” with the prevalence estimates used to arrive at that number.
For example, some studies included looked only at the very small percentage of children who were hospitalised for Covid-19. Like adults, children who had more severe cases of Covid-19 have a greater risk of lingering symptoms or new complications.
Data from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention suggests the prevalence of long Covid is closer to 1 per cent to 2 per cent of children who have had Covid-19. Dr Al-Aly said that in adults, the number was also likely to be in the single digits.
Generally speaking, most parents should not be worried that their children will develop long Covid, said Dr Stephen Freedman, a professor of paediatrics and emergency medicine at the University of Calgary Cumming School of Medicine. “I don’t get asked a lot, if at all, about ‘Is my child now at risk of developing long Covid?’ after we diagnose them with an acute infection,” he said. “And I think that’s appropriate.”
What does long Covid look like in kids?