1 In 4 Children Who Had Symptomatic COVID Develop ‘Long COVID’, Study Finds

Pooled data from 21 COVID studies found that 25% of infected children and adolescents develop longterm complications affecting both mental and physical health.

Filadendron/Getty Images

There is still so much we don’t know about the longterm effects of COVID-19. What we do know is pretty terrifying. Long COVID, also called long-haul COVID, is when the effects of the virus linger long after someone is sick with it. People who have experienced even mild cases of COVID and made a full recovery have reported their lives dramatically changing due to post-COVID syndrome — including children.

A new study analyzing data from 21 COVID studies across Europe, Asia, Australia, and South America found that 1 in 4 children who experienced symptomatic COVID develop long COVID. Researchers looked at the data of 80,071 children and found that 25% developed symptoms that lasted at least 4-12 weeks or new consistent symptoms within 12 weeks of initial infection.

The five most common Long COVID symptoms experienced by these participants were mood symptoms (16.5%), fatigue (9.7%), sleep disorders (8.4%), headache (7.8%), and respiratory symptoms (7.6%).

Kids also experienced a host of other symptoms, including a decrease in concentration and memory, nasal congestion, loss of appetite, and altered sense of smell.

While the study has yet to be peer reviewed, its researchers included a large amount of data from peer-reviewed studies. And what all of these studies have made clear is that as elusive as long COVID is, it is very real, and we need to be proactive in how we treat and prevent it.

"Identifying the main signs and symptoms of pediatric long COVID can help diagnose, develop better treatments, create multidisciplinary teams for optimal clinical management, and find risk factors for prevention," study coauthor Sonia Villapol of Houston Methodist Research Institute in Texas said.

Along with the risk of long COVID, children and teens are also susceptible to a rare-but-life-threatening condition called Multisystem Inflammatory Syndrome in Children (MIS-C), a condition in which different organs like the heart, lungs, brain, kidneys, skin, and eyes can quickly become inflamed and require immediate medical attention.