Poor concentration and abdominal pain: this is children’s long covid

The pandemic has affected all aspects of the lives of children and young people, and more and more data confirm that they also suffer from Long Covid, albeit in a lower percentage than adults.

Even children after recovery from the virus can develop Long Covid

by Elena Bozzola

Until now, the focus has been mainly on teenagers, but a new work from the University of Copenhagen, published in the Lancet, has considered children aged 0 to 14 years in what is the largest study ever conducted on the aftermath of the SARS infection. 2.

Thousands of children involved

The Danes collected information from January 2020 to July 2021. In total, they analyzed data from 11,000 children who had previously been infected with Covid and 33,000 who had never been positive. It was the parents (or whoever took their place now) who answered a questionnaire prepared by researchers about the 23 most common Long Covid symptoms according to the WHO, which must take more than two months to be classified under this syndrome. To understand the scope of the Danish research, one can remember that the largest Italian study to date that has been completed (and not yet completed) involves a thousand children (according to preliminary data, Long Covid affects 17% of the infected children).

Division by age groups

The Danish study concluded that children diagnosed with Sars-Cov-2 in all age groups are more likely to suffer from symptoms associated with long-term Covid than the control group, which included negative subjects. A result that seems obvious, but in reality the percentages of the two groups, except for one case, were very similar.

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“These types of non-specific symptoms, such as headaches, abdominal pain, fatigue, which are attributed to Long Covid, in fact, as we know, often also affect ‘healthy’ children who have never had the infection,” explains the professor. Selina Kikkenborg Bergfrom the University of Copenhagen Hospital, author of the study.

His researchers found that in the age group 0-3 years, 40% of children with Covid experience had symptoms that lasted for more than two months compared to 27% in the control group. While in the following bands the difference is diluted. Between 4 and 11 years, 38% of the positive symptoms showed against 34% of the others, and in the age group 12-14 years, the percentages were 46% and 41%.

Another fact relates to mental and social problems, especially for older children. In those diagnosed with Covid, less fear, worry, and insomnia were seen than in those who had never been ill.

“It’s very interesting and it’s counterproductive that children have been filled with a lot of anxiety about the pandemic, especially teenagers. An Italian study concluded that middle school children were pretty much ready to be vaccinated, not so much for themselves, but to protect the parents and grandparents – explains the professor Guido Castelli Gattinarafrom the Child Jesus Institute for Child and Adolescent Health in Rome and chairman of the Italian Society for Pediatric Infectious Diseases – It is therefore normal for those who have not yet had Covid to remain anxious and worried. “

The results of the questionnaires published by Lancet led to the identification of different symptoms according to age. Between 0-3 years, the most present are sudden mood swings, skin rashes and abdominal pain. In children between 4 and 11 years of age, mood swings and difficulty remembering and concentrating occur more often, while in older children, fatigue and memory problems and difficulty concentrating are reported above all.

“We have also noticed among our patients that the little ones tend to have intestinal diseases as one of the most persistent symptoms, which instead decreases in older children – continues Castelli Gattinara – For the latter, however, it is one of the most important problems that characterize the long Covid are brain foga tiredness of concentrating, doing homework and studying “.

The vaccine also protects against Long Covid

According to initial indications, Omicron appears to cause fewer cases of Long Covid than the other variants, even in children. And then there is always the vaccine, which also protects against after-effects: “Vaccination probably also has an effect on long Covid – confirms the expert – We have also found that the cases of Mis-C, the very serious multisystem inflammatory syndrome, which affected some children, after they became ill with coronavirus, have been significantly reduced since we started vaccinating them. “

The authors themselves acknowledge some limitations of the study. In many cases, there had been a long time between the diagnosis of Sars-Cov-2 and the completion of the questionnaire, in addition, researchers had to rely on data collected exclusively from parents (therefore potentially not always accurate), and it is known that mothers or fathers to the children most severely affected by the disease are usually the ones most willing to answer questions.

“These studies are methodologically difficult,” the pediatrician concludes, “which is why there are sometimes inconsistent results in the scientific literature. The fact that the symptoms are vague and subjective makes it difficult to classify them.”

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