At least 1 in 7 children 'affected' by long Covid months after infection: study

At least 1 in 7 children 'affected' by long Covid months after infection: study

As many as one in seven children may have symptoms linked to the coronavirus months after testing positive for Covid-19, the authors of an English study on adolescents said on Wednesday.

Children rarely become severely ill with Covid-19 but they can suffer lingering symptoms, and the study is one of the largest of its kind on how common so-called “long Covid” is in the age group.

The study, led by University College London and Public Health England, found that 11- to 17-year-olds who tested positive for the virus were twice as likely to report three or more symptoms 15 weeks later than those who had tested negative.

Researchers surveyed 3,065 children aged 11 to 17 in England who had positive results in a PCR test between January and March, and a control group of 3,739 in the same age group who tested negative over the same period.

Among those who tested positive, 14% reported three or more symptoms such as unusual tiredness or headaches 15 weeks later, compared with 7% reporting symptoms by that time among the control group.

The researchers said while the findings suggest as many as 32,000 teenagers might have had multiple symptoms linked to Covid-19 after 15 weeks, the prevalence of long Covid in the age group was lower than some had feared last year.

“Overall, it's better than people would've guessed back in December,” said Prof Terence Stephenson of the UCL Great Ormond Street Institute of Child Health.

The findings were a preprint which had not been peer-reviewed. The authors said any decision to extend vaccination to 12- to 15-year-olds in the UK was unlikely to be based on this study, as there was not enough data on whether vaccination protects against long Covid.

“We are getting increasing evidence on the safety of the vaccine in the 12- to 15-year-olds and that's more likely to be taken into consideration,” said Liz Whittaker, a paediatrician at Imperial College London.