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Are school-aged kids suffering from the symptoms of long COVID?

Health studies and pediatric experts warn that children, some who are not yet eligible for the coronavirus vaccine, are susceptible to long COVID

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Science teachers check-in students before a summer STEM camp due to COVID-19.

In this July 14, 2020, file photo, amid concerns of the spread of COVID-19, science teachers Ann Darby, left, and Rosa Herrera check-in students before a summer STEM camp at Wylie High School in Wylie, Texas.

LM Otero, Associated Press

School-aged children, like adults, who’ve had the coronavirus are susceptible to become pandemic long-haulers, according to a United Kingdom study recently published by The Lancet.

While the research showed that most kids between ages 5 and 17 who tested positive for the coronavirus have generally escaped from the most serious consequences of the deadly pandemic, a small group of children are suffering from long-lasting symptoms of COVID-19, reported the medical journal.

The children, like adults experiencing the lingering symptoms, are said to be dealing with long COVID.

The U.K. study — which included 1,734 kids that reported having the coronavirus between Sept. 1, 2020, and Jan. 24, 2021 — found that median duration for kids to experience coronavirus symptoms was no more than a week, according to The Lancet.

  • Of those kids studied, an average of 4.4% were sick for at least 28 days.
  • About 2% of the kids researched had symptoms that lasted at least 56 days.

The most common symptoms reported by the school-aged children were headache, fatigue, sore throat, anosmia (the loss of the sense of smell) and fever.

  • Fatigue, anosmia and headache lasted longer than other symptoms, the kids said, with lethargy and loss of the sense of smell ailing the children for at least four weeks.

But what about the delta variant?

After the U.K. report was published, Healthline pointed out that study was conducted before the more contagious delta variant began spreading worldwide. Because it’s still early in the spread of coronavirus variants, it’s unclear how they will affect children and the short and long term.

  • “As so often happens in science, new answers prompt new questions. Would the results be the same if this study were conducted in a different patient population?” said Dr. Michael Grosso, a chief medical officer and pediatrics chair at New York’s Northwell Health’s Huntington Hospital, to Healthline.
  • “Also, would the results look similar or different for children infected with the more recently circulating variants, such as delta? Additional research will be needed to enlighten these and other issues,” he added.

More kids may have long COVID than studies suggest

National Institute of Health director Dr. Francis Collins said at a Congressional hearing this spring that 11% to 15% of kids with the coronavirus “end up with this long-term consequence, which can be pretty devastating in terms of things like school performance,” The New York Times reported.

  • Physicians warn that “youths with mild or asymptomatic initial infections may experience long COVID: confounding, sometimes debilitating issues that disrupt their schooling, sleep, extracurricular activities and other aspects of life,” according to the Times.

The CDC does not yet recommend that children under 12 years old get the COVID-19 vaccine. The health agency also suggests that kids between the ages of 2 and 12 wear a mask when in public and when they’re around people that live outside their own home.