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Long Haul COVID in Children

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Long Haul COVID in Children

May 16, 2022

In general, kids do pretty well if they catch COVID-19. But Cindy Gellner, MD, is seeing a significant number of kids experiencing symptoms from the disease for weeks if not months after the initial infection. The ongoing symptoms seem to impact children regardless of how severe their illness was. Learn more about long-haul COVID in your children and what you can do to prevent and treat the symptoms.

So we've been dealing with COVID for a while now, and we are seeing kids who have what we call long-hauler symptoms. So what are these and is there anything that can be done?

Long-Haul Covid in Children

In general, kids do pretty okay with COVID. Some have mild symptoms, some get pretty sick but recover after a week or two, and some kids have no symptoms at all. But more and more what I'm seeing are kids whose parents are saying, "I didn't know it would be this bad," or, "Why are they still having symptoms?"

Unfortunately, no one can predict who will develop long-haul COVID symptoms. There is a study out of England that shows that up to 15% of kids up to age 16 will still have symptoms five weeks after they initially test positive for COVID.

Long-haul symptoms can happen in kids who have minimal or no symptoms or in kids that have severe symptoms. That's the tricky thing with COVID. It doesn't follow any rules and it seems to do whatever it pleases on its own time frame.

Long-Haul Covid Symptoms in Children

So what are the symptoms of long-haul COVID? The most common are:

  • Fatigue
  • Brain fog or difficulty concentrating
  • Breathing issues 
  • Chest, joint, or muscle pain
  • Chronic cough
  • And headache

We also see changes in the sense of taste or smell, mood changes, or lightheadedness when standing up.

I know. It seems like anything can be a symptom of long-haul COVID. And not all of those symptoms can be attributed to having had COVID in the past.

How is long-haul COVID diagnosed? Well, that's tricky too. There are no specific tests that can be done. Your pediatrician can rule out other conditions and will usually refer your child to a specialist if their symptoms persist. But there are no good tests.

We have no idea how long it will last, we don't know what causes it, and we don't know what the treatment will be other than supportive care and treating your child's symptoms as best as possible. But there is no cure.

As we continue to move forward with COVID, hopefully we will have more answers as to how to help long-hauler symptoms. Until then, treating your child's symptoms and getting them set up with specialists to help with their specific medical needs is the best we can do.