Healthcare

Long COVID symptoms in children more prevalent in those 14 and older: study

FILE - A Northwell Health registered nurse fills a syringe with a COVID-19 vaccine at a pop up vaccination site the Albanian Islamic Cultural Center, April 8, 2021, in the Staten Island borough of New York.
(AP Photo/Mary Altaffer, file)
FILE – A Northwell Health registered nurse fills a syringe with a COVID-19 vaccine at a pop up vaccination site the Albanian Islamic Cultural Center, April 8, 2021, in the Staten Island borough of New York. The Food and Drug Administration on Thursday, June 30, 2022 recommended that COVID-19 booster shots be modified to better match more recent variants of the coronavirus. (AP Photo/Mary Altaffer, file)

Children older than 14 are more likely than younger children to present with long COVID-19 symptoms, a new study shows, but it doesn’t preclude younger children from the disease.

A new pediatric study published Friday in the Journal of the American Medical Association Network Open found that nearly 6 percent of children infected with COVID-19 had long COVID-19 symptoms 90 days after a positive test.

That percentage was even higher among children who were hospitalized for their illness, with 9.8 percent developing long COVID-19. Just 4.6 percent of children who were discharged right after testing were experiencing symptoms after 90 days.

Children were also more likely to develop long COVID-19 if they had experienced seven or more symptoms when they first got sick, or if they had been hospitalized for more than two days. 

Kids over 14 years of age were more likely to experience long COVID-19 symptoms, which can include pain, breathing difficulties, fatigue and brain fog

Co-principal investigator Nathan Kuppermann, chairman of the Department of Emergency Medicine at University of California, Davis, told The Hill that the age discrepancy may be due to older children being more likely to develop severe COVID-19. Since high illness severity is a risk factor for long COVID, higher numbers of older children with severe sickness may mean higher numbers of older children with long COVID.

Another reason may be that children vary in their abilities to self-assess and report their symptoms.

Children under age 14 may be less able to identify symptoms like brain fog, Kuppermann said. The median age of children in the study was 3 years, meaning some were preverbal, relying on their parents to judge their wellbeing and report it to researchers. Children over 14, on the other hand, may be more likely to recognize long COVID-19 in themselves.

The team of researchers surveyed 1,884 children who tested positive for COVID-19 in an emergency room, following up after 90 days to check for new or lingering symptoms.

The study ran from March 2020 through January 2021 and looked at children in eight countries: Argentina, Canada, Costa Rica, Italy, Paraguay, Singapore, Spain and the United States.

Long COVID-19 in children is less common overall than in adults. Data from late June showed that 19 percent of U.S. adults reported new or lingering symptoms after their initial illness.

Kuppermann told The Hill he hopes the study helps identify risk factors and guide treatment for children at high risk of developing long COVID symptoms.

Updated: 5:28 p.m. on July 24

Tags children Children's health COVID-19 COVID-19 symptoms long covid pediatrics Study
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