Can COVID-19 affect children long term?

Clinical Trials & Research

A new review evaluated the most recent research to determine whether the symptoms of COVID-19 affect children long-term. 

The current COVID-19 pandemic continues to affect the day-to-day life of people around the world, and more research is being done on the SARS-CoV-2 virus every day in order to decrease the incidence and prevalence of the disease. There is also a lot that remains unknown about the pathology of COVID-19, and emerging research suggests that COVID-19 could potentially lead to symptoms that persist after the disease has passed, including shortness of breath, cough, and a limited sense of smell or taste.1 

Certain groups may have a higher risk of becoming severely ill from COVID-19 infection. This may include those who are immunocompromised, have certain underlying health conditions, or are older adults.1,2 

How does COVID-19 affect children?

Children are not generally considered high-risk for becoming severely ill from COVID-19; in fact, children and adolescents have the lowest case mortality rates when compared to other age groups.3,4  However, they can still contract and spread COVID-19, and the long-term health effects of COVID-19 on children are relatively unknown.5  At this point in time, the two mRNA vaccines available in America are only approved for those who are twelve years of age or above.6 

Researchers at the University of Fribourg in Switzerland wanted to know whether COVID-19 can affect children long-term or lead to persistent symptoms, also known as post-COVID syndrome or PASC.  They reviewed 14 relevant studies, and the results of the analysis were published in The Pediatric Infectious Disease Journal.

The 14 studies covered in the analysis investigated over 19 thousand children and adolescents in high-income countries.5 The researchers investigated the prevalence of long-term COVID-19 symptoms persisting four to twelve weeks after initial SARS-CoV-2 infection. 

There was a high degree of variation in the results of the studies; the percentage of children who developed long-term COVID-19 symptoms ranged from four percent to 66%.5 Some common reported side effects included headache, abdominal pain, congested nose, cough, chest tightness, loss of appetite and sense of smell, rash, and difficulty sleeping and concentrating.5 

The results of this study suggest that long-term symptoms of COVID-19 in children could be relatively common.  However, there is a high degree of variance in the findings of the study, which makes it difficult to establish the significance of this review.  More research is needed to determine whether COVID-19 can affect children long-term, as well as how to treat and manage the potential long-term effects.

References

  1. Nalbandian, A., Seghal, K., Wan, E.Y., et al (2021, March 22). Post-acute COVID-19 syndrome. Nature Medicine 27: 601-615. Doi: 10.1038/s41591-021-01283-z
  2. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (2021, August 20).  COVID-19: Medical Conditions. The U.S. Department of Health and Human Services. Accessed 2021, September 23, from https://www.cdc.gov/coronavirus/2019-ncov/need-extra-precautions/people-with-medical-conditions.html
  3. Koh, H.K., Geller, A.C., VanderWeele, T.J. (2020, December 17). Deaths from COVID-19. JAMA 325(2): 133-134. Doi: 10.1001/jama.2020.25381
  4. Children’s Hospital Association (2020, December 3). Children and COVID-19: State Data Report. The American Academy of Pediatrics. Accessed 2021, September 23, from https://downloads.aap.org/AAP/PDF/AAP%20and%20CHA%20-%20Children%20and%20COVID-19%20State%20Data%20Report%2012.3.20%20FINAL.pdf
  5. Zimmermann, P., Pittet, L.F., Curtis, N. (2021, September 16). How Common is Long COVID in Children and Adolescents? The Pediatric Infectious Disease Journal. Doi: 10.1097/INF.0000000000003328
  6. Coronavirus disease (COVID-19). (2021, September 16). Approved COVID-19 Vaccines. Government of Canada. Accessed 2021, September 23, from https://www.canada.ca/en/health-canada/services/drugs-health-products/covid19-industry/drugs-vaccines-treatments/vaccines.html
  7. Image by Free-Photos from Pixabay 

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