Even the youngest children can experience covid for a long time, according to a large study, one of the first of its kind to include infants and toddlers.
The study, published Wednesday in the journal The Lancet Child & Adolescent Health, included 44,000 children in Denmark between the ages of zero and 14. Of the children, 11,000 had tested positive for covid-19 between January 2020 and July 2021.
While the symptoms associated with prolonged covid are general ailments that children can experience even without covid (headaches, mood swings, stomach problems, and tiredness), children in the study who had previously tested positive for covid had more likely to experience at least one symptom for two months. or more than children who never tested positive for Covid.
The study also revealed that a third of children who had tested positive for Covid experienced at least one long-term symptom that was not present before testing positive.
The most common symptoms varied according to age. For children up to 3 years old, it was about mood swings, rashes and stomachaches. Children ages 4 to 11 also experienced memory and concentration problems. For children ages 12 to 14, these were memory and concentration problems, mood swings, and fatigue.
Children under the age of 3 seemed to have the most problems compared to children not diagnosed with COVID-19: 40% experienced symptoms two months after testing positive compared to 27% in the non-Covid-19 group. 19.
“Our findings align with previous studies of prolonged COVID and adolescents showing that although the chances of children experiencing prolonged COVID are low, especially compared to the control group, they need to be recognized and treated seriously,” said co-author of the studio, Selina Kikkenborg Berg. , professor of cardiology at Rigshospitalet in Copenhagen, Denmark.
It’s still unclear how many children have long-term covid and for how long, because there isn’t enough research on it in this age group, some experts say.
A 2021 study suggested that more than half of children between the ages of 6 and 16 had at least one symptom lasting more than four months.
In adults, some research puts the number at around 30% of cases.
There are no specific tests for long Covid. It is not clear which children will get it, as it can occur even when a child has a mild case of covid-19.
In addition to showing scientists the characteristics of prolonged covid in children, the study also showed that even children who did not contract covid felt the impact of the pandemic. That group reported a few more psychological and social problems than children who had covid.
Dr. Michael Absoud, a pediatrician who specializes in neurodevelopmental issues who did not work on the study, told the Science Media Center in the UK that he found that fact intriguing.
“The most surprising finding of this study is the better quality of life and lower anxiety scores in older children who had tested positive for COVID-19. This provides further confirmation that although children are fortunately resilient to the direct impacts of Covid, they have been significantly affected by the indirect impacts of the pandemic (school closures, repeated quarantines and reduced therapies) and media messages. that cause anxiety. Society has likely underestimated the long-term impact of disruption from the pandemic rather than the virus on all children and the urgent need to bring health and wellness services back,” Absoud said.
“However, it remains important to identify the small proportion of children who take the longest to recover from COVID, while supporting all children with persistent symptoms, regardless of cause,” he added.
Dr. Amy Edwards, a pediatric infectious disease specialist who runs the long-term Covid clinic at UH Rainbow Babies and Children’s Hospital in Cleveland, did not work on the study but said the work was important because it is further evidence that some children they develop prolonged covid. .
She said she still regularly meets people who don’t believe such a thing exists.
“There is a debate both in the medical world and in society, whether all these children are complaining of headaches, anxiety and stomach aches and dizziness as to whether this is Covid or the stress of the pandemic. Yes, the pandemic affected children in a negative way, but then you put covid on top of it and you see that something is really happening here,” Edwards said.
Recognizing that long-term covid can be a problem may encourage more parents to vaccinate their children so they don’t get long-term covid in the first place. Studies like this one can also encourage parents to be on the lookout for symptoms, so they can get help for their child if they need it.
“It is clear that this is not an isolated phenomenon. It is appearing in studios in more than one country. It’s happening in more kids than we originally thought,” Edwards said. “We are talking about a not small number of children when you think about how many cases of covid there have been. So keeping the word out matters.”