As for covids, children are mostly spared. They can become infected and spread the virus, but have a small risk of becoming seriously ill or dying. However, just like adults, they may have symptoms that persist beyond the initial infection. This condition, officially known as the post-acute consequences of SARS-CoV-2 (PASC) infection, is often referred to as the “long” covid.
That should be taken seriously, says Alok Patel, a pediatrician at Lucile Packard Stanford Children’s Hospital. “Although covid itself – an acute infection – has been shown to be less serious in children, long covid is very debilitating, isolating and intimidating for families.”
Why are we talking about this now?
Vaccination changes the demographic data of a pandemic. As more and more adults are vaccinated, children and young adults account for an increasing proportion of cases. The absolute number of cases among children is still lower than it was at the peak of the pandemic, but the infection rate in children has not fallen as fast as in adults.
That makes sense. While the virus is still circulating, “it will hit the people who are most at risk, and those are the people who have not been vaccinated,” Sean O’Leary, vice chairman of the AAP Committee on Infectious Diseases, told NPR. Children under the age of 12 are not yet eligible for vaccination, and younger people who can get an injection have some of the lowest vaccination rates in the United States. “We focused a lot on these postcoidal symptoms in adults,” says Patel. But “we didn’t have the kind of reliable data we really needed in the pediatric population.” That is slowly starting to change.
How common are long relationships in children?
That’s the problem – we just don’t know. “There is a lack of good, peer-reviewed published medical literature on the subject,” says Alicia Johnston, an infectious disease specialist and head of the new post-covid clinic at Boston Children’s Hospital. A handful of existing studies report extremely different rates.
For example, researchers in Italy surveyed caregivers of 109 children who were infected and found that 42% of children had at least one symptom two months after diagnosis. After four months, the number dropped to 27%.