COVID-19 Long Haulers Not Common in Children, Experts Find

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A new study involving children under 17 years old has revealed that kids who contract coronavirus are not likely to become COVID-19 long haulers.

The researchers from King's College London learned that just under two percent of the 1,734 kids who had positive results experienced COVID-19 symptoms that lasted for more than four weeks. In comparison to adult patients, only one in 20 children have symptoms that continue to affect their health from eight weeks or longer. Recovery was also higher for kids who had more protracted symptoms than adults, with no signs of prolonged effects.

The experts based their study on app data entered by the children's parents or their caregivers. The app provided medical information when the children manifested their symptoms until they were healthy and negative from the virus.

The most common symptoms reported were fever, headache, loss of smell, sore throat, and fatigue. On average, children between the ages of 5 to 11 years old had symptoms for five days, while those between 12 to 17 years old had symptoms for a week.

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The experts also didn't find any neurological impact of COVID-19 in the kids, such as impaired concentration, seizures, and anxiety. The results of the study were published in The Lancet Child and Adolescent Health.

Data Collected Before Delta

However, the study was undertaken from September 2020 to February 2021, before the Delta variant emerged as the more dominant variant across many countries. It has a 50 to 60 percent higher transmission rate than the Alpha or Beta variants. In the U.K., Delta transmissions started its domination in May 2021.

Pediatrician Dr. Michael Grosso of the Northwell Health's Huntington Hospital told Healthline that the results could likely be different if the study was done on children who have been infected by Delta. He said that further studies would be needed to provide more information to enlighten and address issues with the current surge.

Dr. Elizabeth Whittaker of Imperial College London's Paediatrics and Child Health acknowledged the study's limitation. However, she told BBC News that there hadn't been any changes in the U.K. despite the emergence of Delta.

Conflicting Outcomes

In a conflicting report, the Office for National Statistics in the U.K. said in April that an estimated 13 percent of kids from 2 to 11 years old, and around 14.5 percent of kids in the ages of 12 to 16 years old, had coronavirus symptoms lasting five weeks.  

Patients are considered COVID-19 long haulers if their symptoms last for five weeks or more, despite a negative test. Sometimes long haulers may be asymptomatic or feel better for a while, but they become weaker and experience the symptoms some weeks later.

Doctors have no way of diagnosing COVID-19 long haulers, but for children whose symptoms last for more than two months, it's best to find a pediatric sub-specialist to mitigate any damaging outcomes. More studies are still being done to understand the impact of COVID-19 in the long term.

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