Long Covid in kids: How common it is, symptoms, treatment and all you want to know

Published on Aug 22, 2022 03:36 PM IST

Long Covid in children is a reality and around 30% of kids who survived Covid report these symptoms. Here's how to know if your kid is suffering from Long Covid and how to treat these issues.

What is Long Covid? When one or more symptoms persist for more than 12 weeks in a child post Covid which cannot be explained by any other diagnosis, it is called Long Covid.(Pexels)
What is Long Covid? When one or more symptoms persist for more than 12 weeks in a child post Covid which cannot be explained by any other diagnosis, it is called Long Covid.(Pexels)

Is your child suffering from mood swings, depression, restless sleep, fatigue or breathing difficulties post Covid? Long Covid in children is a reality and around 30% of kids affected by the viral disease report long Covid symptoms which if not treated could worsen and in some cases can cause serious health issues. Experts say it's important for parents of all age groups to stay in touch with doctors even after recovery from Covid to rule out long Covid issues which may linger on and affect a child's health and quality of life. (Also read: These post Covid illnesses can kill; doctors on how to avoid them)

When one or more symptoms persist for more than 12 weeks in a child post Covid which cannot be explained by any other diagnosis, it is called Long Covid. Experts say that there could be different symptoms of long Covid in different age groups though fatigue remains a common sign in almost all kids suffering from this syndrome.

"One thing that is common among all age groups is fatigue. Most of the parents complain that after Covid, the child is very tired. This is equally common in all age groups," says Dr Amish K Vora, Pediatric and Neonatal Intensivist, ECLS Specialist, Consultant in Pediatric Intensive Care, Masina Hospital Mumbai in a conversation with HT Digital.

How common in long Covid in kids

"Many studies done in the western world and published in scientific literature have different results. The one recently published in journal Pediatrics concluded that almost 25% of the children who suffer from Covid-19 can present with long term issues for months. Similar studies have been published in Lancet Child & Adolescent Health and Scientific Reports. A study conducted by Dr Randolph at Critical Care Unit of Boston Children’s Hospital (Harvard University) concluded that almost 34% of kids who were severely infected with covid can present with symptoms for 4-6 months. Factors such as severity of infection, level of immunity, pandemic stress and vaccination status- all affects the Long covid duration," says Dr Charu Dutt Arora, Infectious Diseases Specialist and Head, Ameri Health, Asian Hospital.

"We generally divide children into three age groups roughly - less than 5 years, middle age group which is 5-12 years and adolescents or young adults which is 13-18 years. Long Covid is common in all age groups. All three age groups show about 30 per cent chances of having long covid syndrome. Younger ones that are less than 5 years, between 5-12 years and above 13 years all have chances of getting long covid and it is more common than adults. 1 in 3 children get this," says Dr Vora.

Symptoms of Long Covid in kids

"Fatigue, fever, headache, sore throat, cough, brain fog (difficulty in focusing), weakness, sleep disturbances, light headedness after standing, muscle and joint pain, depression/anxiety and altered sense of smell or taste are among the symptoms of long Covid in kids," says Dr Ujjwala Keskar, Consultant Pediatrics, Manipal Hospitals.

Dr Charu Dutt Arora says a gamut of symptoms ranging from headache to cardiac issues- all can be present in Long Covid in children and adolescents. The three most common symptoms include fatigue, mood issues and sleep disturbances. "It has been seen that headache, muscle pain, body pain, loss of smell, early fatiguability, shortness of breath and circulatory issues can be seen in kids with long Covid. These are more commonly seen in children who have pre-existing illness such as asthma, eczema and auto immune issues or who had severe Covid-19 infection which required steroid/oxygen therapy," says Dr Arora.

Dr Amish K Vora explains in detail how long Covid symptoms affects kids and how to manage them.

Long Covid in babies (0-5 years old)

* Mood changes

- We often hear parents saying that the child is getting moodier and is not the same before and after Covid.

- The anxiety of the strangers is heightened. Many kids have stranger anxiety but they do not have paranoid or other symptoms which we see in a lot of patients of post covid.

* Developmental disorders

- Children less than 5 years of age show more of anxiety and they may also have developmental malalignment or disorder where they are not developed as per their growth and developmental parameters.

* Poor sleep quality

Long Covid in above 5 kids and adolescents

Depression and anger: Dr Vora says, there have been increasing cases of mental health issues in adolescents including depression, sadness and anger. He also said that post Covid, parents are saying that their kids have started sleeping at unusual hours, even 3 am or 4 am in the morning. The expert says it's important to bring these things to a doctor's notice.

Poor academic performance: Dr Vora says another common thing that many parents have noticed is that their child has become weak in studies. They are not able to concentrate, leave everything half done, do not listen to parents or lost in their own space. He says the issue is common in 5 years and above children.

Loss of appetite: Another common long Covid symptoms is loss of appetite, especially in younger kids. After Covid, appetite takes a long time to come back. 8-10% kids have loss of appetite, an altered sense of smell, especially adolescents and young adults.

Heart issues: In Long Covid, kids face increase in heart rate and 3-5% may have this and they need to be treated.

How to treat long Covid issues

- Try and have regular sleep pattern: Dr Vora says early to sleep and early to rise will make sure children would recover faster. "Body's healing time frame is between 11 pm and 4 am. Children should go to bed around 8:30 pm to 9 pm and wake up by 6. This will make sure they are in deep sleep between 11 pm to 5 am. Issues of long covid, sleep disorders, cognitive issues, memory, concentration, will be resolved," says the expert.

- Mild and moderate exercise: "When children are recovering, tell them to start doing mild to moderate exercises. Try to make sure to do this so they do not have issues with fatigue, breathing, fast heart rate," says Dr Vora.

- Don't force child to eat a lot. Kids shouldn't be given junk food, chocolates, when they are recovering from Covid. Make sure the child is well-hydrated and taking lots of liquid.

- Delay in consulting doctor could deteriorate their symptoms. So it is better that patients with Covid should be seen by doctors regularly.

Dr Charu Dutt Arora says vaccination is the only preventive strategy from getting Long Covid.

"As immunisation rate is increasing among kids worldwide, the incidence of chronic complication should be declining. Also, special care towards extra rest, balanced nutrition, respiratory therapy, breathing exercises and timely check up with the medical expert post Covid can prevent these symptoms of long Covid," says Dr Arora.

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