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Do Kids Get Long COVID? How Bad Is It?

Long COVID symptoms are leaving millions in misery. What about children? Will kids get long COVID? Danish, US and British studies say yes.

We started writing about long COVID as soon as this condition was identified. On October 1, 2020 we asked, “After a recovery, how long do COVID-19 symptoms last?” Back then, scientists speculated that symptoms might last for weeks or even months. We now know that many people are still suffering with symptoms of “PASC” (post-acute sequelae of SARS-CoV-2) a year or longer. Now there’s a new question: Do kids get Long COVID? What are their symptoms like?

What We Don’t Know About Long COVID:

How many people are still suffering from PASC or long COVID? Let’s be totally honest. We have no clue. We have seen estimates that suggest from 2% to 25% of those who contracted the SARS-CoV-2 virus have experienced long-term complications.

The National Institute of Health RECOVER Initiative is trying to discover how many people are affected by long COVID, uncover causes, study how symptoms change over time and develop effective treatments. While these researchers don’t yet know the exact number of how many people are affected, it is clear that millions of people are affected.

Do Kids Get Long COVID?

A new study published in the journal Pediatrics (Feb. 7, 2024) offers some important insights into the question: Do Kids Get Long COVID?

Postacute Sequelae of SARS-CoV-2 in Children

The authors introduce their analysis this way:

“Data regarding the postacute sequelae of severe acute respiratory syndrome coronavirus 2 infection (PASC) in children, or long COVID, are only just emerging in the literature. These symptoms and conditions may reflect persistent symptoms from acute infection (eg, cough, headaches, fatigue, and loss of taste and smell), new symptoms like dizziness, or exacerbation of underlying conditions. Children may develop conditions de novo [anew], including postural orthostatic tachycardia syndrome [POTS], myalgic encephalomyelitis/chronic fatigue syndrome, autoimmune conditions and multisystem inflammatory syndrome in children.”

Until recently, most health professionals believed that children were spared from the long-term consequences of a COVID-19 infection. This analysis suggests that is an oversimplification.

Data from the NIH-funded Researching COVID to Enhance Recovery Initiative indicate that 10 to 20% of children within 6 months of acute infection still suffer symptoms. That is ten times higher than the CDC’s estimate of 1.3-2%. Some symptoms that young children may not be able to describe adequately include:

  • Exercise intolerance
  • Fatigue
  • Brain fog and headaches.

Pediatricians do not have any evidence-based treatments to help children overcome such symptoms

This is NOT a “Scamdemic”!

Before I reveal other evidence that kids get long COVID, I need to get something off my chest. Please forgive this mini rant:

A few years ago we reported an unusual “side effect” of COVID vaccinations. It was a follow-up to an article in which a reader of our syndicated newspaper column described an unusual reaction to the COVID vaccine. He said that a persistent wart disappeared after vaccination against the coronavirus.

After that communication we received dozens and dozens of similar stories. We just share these reports and try to make some scientific sense out of them. Here is a link that offers what data exist.

A COVID denier disputes our readers:

Kerry was annoyed. She insisted that vaccines are “poison injections” and called the COVID-19 pandemic a “scamdemic.”

In other words, more than 100,000,000 Americans did not catch the coronavirus! 1,198,235 people have not died in the US and 7 million have not died worldwide. It’s all just a big hoax, according to this visitor.

Try telling that to the tens of millions of people who are grieving the loss of loved ones. Try convincing people who are suffering from PASC that their persistent COVID symptoms are a figment of their imagination. Sorry Kerry, the pandemic is real and the consequences will be long lasting.

Kids Get Long COVID!

Adolescents are not immune to long COVID. One study from Denmark tracked 15 to 18-year-olds who had a positive COVID test between January 2020 and July 2021 (The Lancet Child & Adolescent Health, Feb. 7, 2022).

Over 6,000 young people volunteered along with more than 21,000 teens who had not contracted COVID. They served as the control group.

Almost half of the youngsters who had caught COVID-19 reported symptoms lasting for months. They included headache, fatigue, loss of appetite, trouble breathing and trouble remembering or concentrating. They reported more school days missed due to illness compared to the controls.

Here is how the authors of this Danish study put their research in context:

“This national study investigated long-term symptoms and quality of life in adolescents with PCR-confirmed SARS-CoV-2 compared with age and sex matched controls. This study has the longest follow-up time of more than 12 months and is the largest to date, including 6,630 responders in the case group and 21,640 eligible responders in the control group.

“Results from this LongCOVIDKidsDK study combined with findings in other recent studies including a control group suggest that persisting symptoms are more prevalent in adolescents after a SARS-CoV-2 infection than in controls. Knowledge of long COVID in adolescents is important to guide clinical recognition and management of this condition, as well as inform decisions about vaccine strategies.”

British Kids Get Long COVID too:

Another study from the UK analyzed data on youngsters between 11 and 17 years of age (The Lancet Child & Adolescent Health, Feb. 7, 2022). More than 3,000 adolescents who tested positive for COVID were compared to 3,700 who tested negative.

The authors introduce their research this way:

“SARS-CoV-2 in children and young people is usually mild compared with adults. However, little is known about the diagnosis, prevalence, phenotype, or duration of long COVID (also known as post-acute COVID syndrome) in children and young people…Ongoing symptomatic COVID-19 is defined as disease with symptoms lasting 4–12 weeks, and post COVID-19 syndrome as disease with symptoms lasting more than 12 weeks.”

Data were collected for three months after a positive test. Those who had COVID were more likely to experience multiple symptoms, especially tiredness, headache, dizziness, loss of the sense of smell and shortness of breath.

The People’s Pharmacy Perspective:

Kids get long COVID! We do not know if they will recover after six months or a year or will be left with lingering symptoms for much longer. We don’t know how to treat this condition in adults, so it is not surprising that we don’t know what to do about PASC in kids.

We know that long COVID clinics are opening up all across the country and around the world. The waiting list for appointments is long, and there is no obvious magic bullet.

We did interview one controversial virologist (Dr. Bruce K. Patterson) who claims to have a treatment that works for PASC. We will need to see well-controlled trials before we accept the claims that there is a treatment for long COVID. Here is a link to that interview should you wish to hear it for yourself.  Dr. Bruce Patterson’s interview occurs in the last 20 minutes of the podcast.

If you or your child have experienced symptoms of long COVID, please share them in the comment section below. If your child has experienced PASC, please describe what it has been like. Thank you for sharing your COVID story.

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About the Author
Joe Graedon is a pharmacologist who has dedicated his career to making drug information understandable to consumers. His best-selling book, The People’s Pharmacy, was published in 1976 and led to a syndicated newspaper column, syndicated public radio show and web site. In 2006, Long Island University awarded him an honorary doctorate as “one of the country's leading drug experts for the consumer.”.
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  • Stephenson, T., et al, "Physical and mental health 3 months after SARS-CoV-2 infection (long COVID) among adolescents in England (CLoCk): a national matched cohort study," Lancet Child & Adolescent Health, Feb. 7, 2022, DOI:https://doi.org/10.1016/S2352-4642(22)00022-0
  • Kikkenborg Borg, S., et al, "Long COVID symptoms in SARS-CoV-2-positive adolescents and matched controls (LongCOVIDKidsDK): a national, cross-sectional study," Lancet Child & Adolescent Health, Feb. 7, 2022, DOI:https://doi.org/10.1016/S2352-4642(22)00004-9
  • Rao, S., et al, "Postacute Sequelae of SARS-CoV-2 in Children," Pediatrics, Feb. 7, 2024, doi: 10.1542/peds.2023-062570
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