The forms of long Covid seem to be confirmed as rare in the very young. This is what emerges from a large British study published in ‘The Lancet Child & Adolescent Health’. The work offers the first detailed description of Covid-19 disease in symptomatic children and teens aged 5-17. The analysis focused on data from 1,734 positive results, and assesses from when symptoms began until the little patients returned to health. In general, the recovery times were within a week. The children have few symptoms and the disease lasted on average 6 days (on average 3 symptoms were encountered). However, nearly all symptoms healed within 8 weeks (98.2%), which provides reassurance on long-term outcomes.
However, the authors note, some children (4.4%, or 77 out of 1,734) experienced symptoms – on average 2 – persisting beyond 4 weeks. The most frequent: fatigue, headache or loss of smell. The long duration of the disease after Sars-CoV-2 infection therefore seems less common in children than in adults. Symptoms were reported by a parent or guardian via the Zoe Covid Study App and a cross-check with medical records was not possible.
“It is reassuring that the number of children who experience long-lasting symptoms of Covid-19 symptoms is low – comments Emma Duncan of King’s College London, lead and senior author of the study – But a small proportion experience” forms of long Covid “and our study validates the experiences of these children and their families.”
Notwithstanding the fact that many children infected with the Sars-CoV-2 virus show no symptoms at all, and those who develop them tend to have mild illness, the experts looked at the proportion of symptoms. The data analyzed was collected between September 1, 2020 and February 22, 2021. About 1,734 children who developed symptoms and received a positive PCR test result temporally close to their onset.
The most common symptom of all in 4.4% of children and adolescents with persistent forms beyond the month was fatigue (84%). Headache and loss of smell were also common, each experienced by 77.9% of children at some point in the course of the illness. However, the headache was more common early in the disease, while the loss of smell tended to come on later and persist longer. Of the children who developed symptoms at least 2 months before the end of the study period, less than 2% had them for more than 8 weeks (1.8%).
Older children were generally sick longer than those of primary school age (mean duration of illness 7 days in children aged 12 to 17, versus 5 days in children aged 5 to 11) . And they were also more likely to experience symptoms after 4 weeks (5.1% of 12-17 year olds versus 3.1% of 5-11 year olds), but there were no major differences among children who still had symptoms after 8 weeks. “We discovered – adds Erika Molteni, of King’s College London, first author of the study – almost a quarter of the symptomatic children who tested positive during the second wave of Covid in the United Kingdom did not report main symptoms, suggesting that the British testing policy must be reconsidered “.
The researchers also evaluated children who tested negative for Covid who may have had other illnesses such as colds and flu. They randomly selected a group of equal age and gender with symptoms reported via the App and tested in the same period as the positives. It was found that children with Covid stay sick longer than those who tested negative (average of 6 days vs 3) and are more likely to have symptoms for more than 4 weeks (4.4% vs 0.9% of children with other diseases).
“Our data highlights that other illnesses, such as colds and flu, can also have prolonged symptoms in children and it is important to consider this when planning pediatric health services during the pandemic and beyond,” notes Michael Absoud, senior author of the study. now, as the prevalence of these diseases is likely to increase as physical distancing measures implemented to prevent the spread of Covid ease. All children who have persistent symptoms – of any disease – need timely multidisciplinary support “.
The hope, concludes Duncan, is that the results of the study “will be useful for doctors, parents and schools who care for these children and, of course, for the affected children themselves.”