Most people who survive COVID-19 recover completely. Between 10-30% of COVID patients experience long-term symptoms for four weeks or longer, however, with symptoms sometimes lasting months after infection. This experience is known as “long COVID,” and it turns out children can get it too.
Long COVID symptoms can include fatigue, difficulty concentrating, shortness of breath, muscle aches, depression, and anxiety. The condition was first found in adults, but several students have indicated a similar condition in children, despite them rarely experiencing severe symptoms of COVID.
Researchers are still working to determine how frequently and how severely children can get long COVID, and estimates vary widely. Finding an accurate estimate is essential, however, because upcoming decisions about school closures and vaccine rollouts may depend on the risk the virus poses to children.
According to the National Library of Medicine, 12.9% of UK children aged 2-11 who have COVID symptoms maintain some symptoms five weeks after their initial infection. Of UK children aged 12-16, 14.5% still have symptoms five weeks after initial infection.
A challenge that arises when trying to diagnose long COVID comes about because many people who contracted the virus never got tested for it. In some cases, they may have only been tested after the virus cleared their system. It is also difficult to diagnose because long COVID causes general symptoms that are common in many other illnesses and infections.
Early data and anecdotal evidence seem to indicate that, in some cases, COVID long-haulers see improved symptoms after getting vaccinated. So far, no COVID vaccines have been approved for use in children under the age of 12.
Remedies for long COVID are still being researched, but some COVID patients have used physical therapy and their own home remedies to counter the infection. Rebuilding strength and improving organ health can minimize the risk of complications, according to Dr. Hassan Sajjad, an Iowa Mercy Medical Center pulmonologist specializing in post-COVID care.
Getting lots of rest and taking over-the-counter pain relievers can also be effective for some long COVID patients who need temporary relief from chronic pain or fever.
Other long COVID patients are experimenting with elimination diets, restorative yoga, or supplements. Experts have stressed that general health is essential in recovery, so following a healthy diet and getting enough sleep is important.