How prevalent is long COVID in children?

Often discussed in adult patients, the likelihood of long COVID-19 in children is less well known. A research letter offers insight.

Much has been said about long COVID in adults, but less is known about how often children are affected by long-term COVID-19 symptoms. A research letter in JAMA sought to describe the prevalence of long COVID in children.1

Investigators used Ciao Corona, a longitudinal cohort study, which investigated severe acute respiratory syndrome coronavirus 2 seroprevalence in 55 schools randomly selected in Switzerland. Children who participated in the study went through 3 testing phases, which included collecting venous blood for serologic analysis and online questionnaires about symptoms.

From a potential pool of 2503 children with a serology result, 1355 were included in the report. Those who weren’t included in the report were excluded because they did not provide symptom information, were not retested, or had been seroconverted. Those included in the analysis were younger, more likely to be girls, and more likely to have parents with a university or college education. Between October 2020 and April 2021, 4 out of 109 seropositive children reported at least 1 symptom that lasted longer than 12 weeks. In comparison, 28 of 1246 seronegative children reported the same. An increased need for sleep, tiredness, and difficulty concentrating were the most reported symptoms lasting longer than 12 weeks in seropositive children. Hospitalization was not required for any of the seropositive children after October 2020 and good to excellent health was described by a similar proportion of both seropositive and seronegative children.

The investigators concluded that although long COVID does exist in children, that it is far less prevalent than it is in adults, where an estimated 1 out 3 COVID-19 patients will have long-term symptoms. They did note that the small number of seropositive children and reliance on parental report of symptoms were limitations to their study.

Reference

1. Radtke T, Ulyte A, Puhan M, Kriemler S. Long-term symptoms after SARS-CoV-2 infection in children and adolescents. JAMA. July 15, 2021. Epub ahead of print. doi:10.1001/jama.2021.11880