Most kids and teens who test positive for COVID-19 have mild or no symptoms. However, it has become clear that some experience symptoms more than a month after they’ve been infected with SARS-CoV-2, the virus that causes COVID-19.
Several post-Covid conditions have been identified in kids. Most notable are continued or recurring symptoms referred to as “long-haul COVID,” or sometimes as “long COVID” or “Post-Acute COVID-19.” Research on this condition continues.
Who gets long-haul COVID?
No one is certain how many people who’ve had COVID-19 end up being long haulers. One study showed that as many as 52% of teens and young adults between ages 16 and 30 might experience lingering symptoms six months after having COVID. The U.K. Office for National Statistics estimated that 12.9% of children 2 to 11 years of age, and 14.5% of children 12 to 16 years old, still experienced symptoms five weeks after infection.
What we do know is that long-haul COVID can happen even in people who had mild or no symptoms of COVID-19. Their symptoms during the acute infection may not go away, even long after their infection is gone. Sometimes, long-haul COVID symptoms start after a person is feeling better. Or, if they were asymptomatic (didn’t have COVID symptoms), they may experience them weeks later. Any of these symptoms can be new and different, or they may be the same as the ones your child had during the COVID infection.
What are the symptoms of long-haul COVID?
The most common symptoms of long-haul COVID include:
• Fatigue and poor physical endurance
• Difficulty thinking or concentrating, also known as “brain fog.”
• Cough, trouble breathing
• Joint or muscle pain
• Chest or stomach pain
• Mood changes
• Heart palpitations
• Loss of or changes in smell or taste
• Light-headedness when standing up
There are a variety of chronic symptoms your child can experience after having COVID-19. The specific symptoms your child has could depend on how severe their COVID infection was. For instance, if your child was in the intensive care unit (ICU) on a ventilator, they might have fatigue, weak muscles, a fast heart rate, and brain fog. These are common effects in people who have spent time in the ICU.
How is long-haul COVID diagnosed?
There’s no specific test to diagnose long-haul COVID, so it’s diagnosed based on symptoms. Your paediatrician may run other tests if symptoms continue for more than three months. They will want to be sure there’s nothing else causing your child’s symptoms.
How long does it last?
That’s still unknown. More studies are needed to understand what’s going on.
What causes it?
Researchers are still trying to figure out what causes some people to experience long-haul COVID. Unfortunately, it will probably take some years before we know much.
How is it treated?
Treatment depends on what symptoms your child is having. Your paediatrician will treat individual symptoms, such as headaches, light-headedness, or problems sleeping.
What is multisystem inflammatory syndrome in children (MIS-C)?
Multisystem Inflammatory Syndrome in children is a serious condition that may be related to COVID-19. However, we don’t know for sure yet what causes MIS-C. We know that many kids who have had it either had COVID-19 or were around someone else who did. Keep in mind that MIS-C is rare.
When to seek help?
If your child has been infected with SARS-CoV-2, stay in touch with your paediatrician to monitor for any lingering symptoms. Some centres in SG are creating post-COVID care clinics to treat long-haul COVID more effectively. Your paediatrician can help you find a subspecialist or clinic if your child needs one.
COVID-19 vaccines are the best way to protect your family against COVID-19 and post-COVID conditions, including long-haul COVID. So please consider vaccinating your child if you have not already done that.