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What the most comprehensive study of prolonged COVID in children says

Findings from recent research align with previous studies of prolonged COVID in adolescents showing that while the chances of children experiencing prolonged COVID are low (Gettyimages)

Los prolonged symptoms of coronavirus they are a recurrent problem in the general population and also in the smallest. The largest study to date of prolonged COVID symptoms in children ages 0-14 confirms that those who have been diagnosed with coronavirus can experience prolonged COVID symptoms that last at least two months.

The study, published in The Lancet Child & Adolescent Health, used a nationwide sampling of children in Denmark and matched positive cases of COVID-19 with a control group with no history of infection. The general objective of our study was determine the prevalence of long-lasting symptoms in children and infants, along with quality of life and absenteeism from school or child care.

Our results reveal that although children with a positive diagnosis of COVID-19 are more likely to experience long-lasting symptoms than children without a previous diagnosis of COVID-19, the pandemic has affected all aspects of the lives of all young people. It will be important to continue researching the long-term consequences of the pandemic on all children”, explained the teacher Selina Kikkenborg Berg, from Copenhagen University Hospital, Denmark. Most previous studies of prolonged COVID in young people have focused on adolescents, with infants and young children rarely represented.

Prolonged symptoms of coronavirus are a recurring problem in the general population and also in the smallest (Getty)
Prolonged symptoms of coronavirus are a recurring problem in the general population and also in the smallest (Getty)

In this research, surveys were sent to the mother or guardian of children between 0-14 years of age who had tested positive for COVID-19 between January 2020 and July 2021. In total, answers of nearly 11,000 children with a positive COVID-19 test result who were matched for age and sex 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 COVID in children (identified by the January 2021 Long COVID Children Rapid Survey) and used the World Health Organization definition of long COVID as symptoms. that last more than two months. The most common symptoms among children aged 0 to 3 years were mood swings, skin rashes and stomachaches. Between ages 4 and 11, the most common symptoms were mood swings, trouble remembering or concentrating, and skin rashes, and between ages 12 and 14, fatigue, mood swings, and trouble remembering or concentrating.

The study results found that children diagnosed with COVID-19 in all age groups had more likely to experience at least one symptom for two months or more than the control group. In the age group 0-3 years, 40% of children diagnosed with COVID-19 (478 of 1,194 children) experienced symptoms for more than two months, compared with 27% of controls (1,049 of 3,855 children). ). For the age group from 4 to 11 years, the relationship was 38% of the cases (1,912 of 5,023 children) compared to 34% of the controls (6,189 of 18,372 children), and for the age group of 12 to 14 years , 46% of cases (1,313 of 2,857 children) compared to 41% of controls (4,454 of 10,789 children) experienced lasting symptoms.

Children vaccinated against COVID have greater protection from becoming infected and developing prolonged symptoms of this disease ( REUTERS / Mayela Lopez)
Children vaccinated against COVID have greater protection from becoming infected and developing prolonged symptoms of this disease ( REUTERS / Mayela Lopez)

The types of nonspecific symptoms associated with long duration of COVID are often experienced by otherwise healthy children. Headache, mood swings, abdominal pain, and fatigue are symptoms of common ailments experienced by children that are not related to COVID-19. However, this study revealed that children with a positive diagnosis of COVID-19 were more likely to experience long-lasting symptoms than children who had never had a positive diagnosis, suggesting that these symptoms were a presentation of prolonged COVID. This is supported by approximately one-third of children who test positive for COVID-19 experiencing symptoms that were not present prior to SARS-CoV-2 infection.

Also, with increasing duration of symptoms, the proportion of children with those symptoms tended to decrease. In general, children diagnosed with COVID-19 reported fewer psychological and social problems than children in the control group. In the older age groups, cases often felt less frightened, had fewer problems sleeping, and felt less worried about what would happen to them.

One possible explanation for this is the increased pandemic awareness in older age groups, with children in the control group experiencing fear of the unknown disease and more restricted daily life due to protecting themselves from contracting the virus. “The opportunity to undertake such research is rapidly closing as the vast majority of children now have had a COVID-19 infection, for example 58% of children in Denmark had a laboratory confirmed infection between December 2021 and February 2022.

The overall goal of our study was to determine the prevalence of enduring symptoms in children and infants, along with quality of life and absenteeism from school or daycare (Getty Images)
The overall goal of our study was to determine the prevalence of enduring symptoms in children and infants, along with quality of life and absenteeism from school or daycare (Getty Images)

Knowledge of long-term symptoms

Burden in SARS-CoV-2 positive children is essential to guide clinical recognition, parental care and social decisions about isolation, lockdown, non-pharmaceutical interventions and vaccination strategies,” says Professor Selina Kikkenborg Berg. “Our findings align with previous studies of prolonged COVID in adolescents showing that although the chances of children experiencing prolonged COVID are low, especially compared to control groups, they need to be recognized and treated seriously. More research will be beneficial to better treat and understand these symptoms and the long-term consequences of the pandemic on children in the future.”

The authors acknowledge some limitations of the study, including a long recall period between diagnosis and completion of the survey. The research was based on parent-reported data, which is less accurate for psychological symptoms. This may also lead to selection bias, as mothers and guardians of children with more severe symptoms are often more willing to respond, leading to results representing more affected children.

Also, public testing for COVID-19 was only available from August 2020, meaning some children in the control group may have had undetected asymptomatic infections. Writing in a linked comment, Maren Rytter, from the University of Copenhagen, Denmark, who was not involved in the study, said: “The study found that symptoms of any kind were slightly more frequent in children who had been infected with SARS. – CoV-2. The overall impact on children from having COVID-19 is likely to be small and probably much less than the impact of the indirect effects of the pandemic.

For most children with non-specific symptoms after COVID-19, the symptoms are more likely to be caused by something other than COVID-19 and, if related to COVID-19, are likely to go away with time”.

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