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Children could be at risk of long Covid, study finds

Sleepy child


Children could be at risk of symptoms such as fatigue and sleep disturbance for months after a Covid-19 infection, according to long Covid research.

In a study, conducted in January and February 2021 that has not yet been peer-reviewed, global scientists including from the University of Oxford interviewed parents of 518 children admitted with Covid-19 to Children’s Municipal Clinical Hospital in Moscow between April and August last year.

They found 24% of children experienced persistent long Covid symptoms more than five months after discharge, of which fatigue (11%), sleep disturbance (7%) and sensory problems (6%) were the most common – while multiple symptoms were experienced by 8% of participants.

Some parents also said their children changed their behaviour because of the infection, such as eating less (5%), becoming less physically active (5%) and becoming less emotional (4%), although the researchers said more research was needed to determine the cause.

They wrote: ‘Although many symptoms which were present at discharge diminished over time, even eight months after hospital discharge many children experienced persistent symptoms, with fatigue, sensory changes and sleep problems being the most common.’

Although the scientists said there was a ‘steady decline’ in some symptoms such as fatigue and smell disturbance declined over time, others such as headache and sleep problems did not lessen.

Children aged 6 and over, and those with allergies, were more at risk of developing long Covid, the research also found.

In November last year, NICE defined long Covid as symptoms lasting for more than 12 weeks that ‘can affect any system in the body’.

An earlier review published last October suggested that the definition can be split into four separate syndromes with wide-ranging symptoms, which sometimes meant people were not believed or treated. These symptoms can impact both those who have been to hospital with Covid-19 and those who only had it mildly.