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Does long Covid affect kids? How? What ‘largest coronavirus study on kids’ in Lancet says

Ailments like headache, fatigue & abdominal pain more likely to last longer in children who've had Covid than in uninfected kids, finds study by researchers at universities in Denmark.

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New Delhi: Children infected with SARS-CoV-2 can suffer from long Covid lasting at least two months, according to a study published in The Lancet Child & Adolescent Health journal Thursday.

Common ailments like abdominal pain and fatigue — which can also occur in uninfected children — were more likely to last longer in those who had been diagnosed with Covid, found the study, carried out by scientists from Copenhagen University Hospital, the University of Southern Denmark, and the University of Copenhagen. 

The study compared samples of some 11,000 Danish children under 14 who had tested positive for Covid-19 between January 2020 and July 2021 with more than 33,000 samples of a group of children from Denmark with no prior history of the infection. 

Thus far, this is the largest such study of long Covid symptoms among children under the age of 14.

The researchers pointed out that some of the ailments considered symptoms of long Covid, such as headaches, mood swings, fatigue and abdominal pain, are often experienced by otherwise healthy children.

The study, however, found that children who had been diagnosed with Covid were more likely to experience these ailments for longer than those who had not — suggesting that these were linked to long Covid.

This claim, researchers said, is supported by the finding that approximately one-third of children who had tested positive for Covid-19 had been experiencing symptoms that were not present before the SARS-CoV-2 infection.

“The overall aim of our study was to determine the prevalence of long-lasting symptoms in children and infants, alongside the quality of life, and absence from school or daycare,” Selina Kikkenborg Berg, a professor at the Copenhagen University Hospital in Denmark and one of the authors of the study, said in a statement.

Explaining the study’s findings, Berg said that the pandemic had affected every aspect of young people’s lives, although “children with a positive Covid-19 diagnosis are more likely to experience long-lasting symptoms than children with no previous Covid-19 diagnosis”.

“Our findings align with previous studies of long Covid in adolescents showing that, although the chances of children experiencing long Covid are low, especially compared to control groups, it must be recognised and treated seriously,” Berg said in her statement.

She also stressed the importance of further research into the long-term consequences of the pandemic for all children. According to the research team, most previous studies of long Covid in young people have focused on adolescents, often leaving out infants and toddlers. 

Also Read: Covid deaths extremely rare in children, usually linked to comorbidities, says 2-year UK study

Kids with Covid likely to experience symptoms for two months

As part of the study, researchers sent out surveys to parents or guardians of children under the age of 14 who had tested positive for Covid-19 between January 2020 and July 2021. The team received as many as 11,000 responses that were then compared to responses given by the parents of guardians of more than 33,000 children who had never tested positive for Covid-19.

In the survey, participants were asked about the 23 most common symptoms of long Covid in children; the surveyors relied on the World Health Organization’s definition of long Covid as a type of infection with symptoms lasting for more than two months.

Illustration: ThePrint team
Illustration: ThePrint team

Mood swings, rashes, and stomach aches were the most commonly reported symptoms among children under three years old.

In the case of those aged between four and 11, mood swings, trouble remembering or concentrating, and rashes were the most commonly reported symptoms.

Fatigue, mood swings, and trouble remembering or concentrating were some of the most common symptoms among children in the 12-14 age group.

The study also found that children diagnosed with Covid-19 in all age groups are more likely to experience at least one symptom for two months or longer than the control group (children who were never infected with Covid). 

At least 40 per cent of 1,194 children in the zero to three age group diagnosed with Covid-19 experienced symptoms for longer than two months, compared to 27 per cent of 3,855 children who were never infected in the first place.

For children aged between four and eleven, this ratio was 38 per cent (1,912 of 5,023 children), compared to 34 per cent of the 18,372 children who were never infected with Covid.

Similarly, in the case of children in the 12-14 age group, 46 per cent of those diagnosed with Covid had long-lasting symptoms, compared to 41 per cent who never caught the virus.

(Edited by Amrtansh Arora)

Also Read: Polio virus in Kolkata sewage came from vaccinated individual, not cause for alarm, says WHO


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