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Long Covid symptoms in children and teens typically last between four and 12 weeks, analysis finds

Children and teenagers rarely have long-term symptoms of coronavirus that last longer than three months, a new analysis suggests.

Researchers looked at 14 studies that included 20,000 kids from around the world battling so-called 'long Covid.'

They found that almost all children said their symptoms improved between four weeks and 12 weeks.

The team, from the Murdoch Children's Research Institute, in Victoria, Australia, says that the findings suggest the long Covid is not as much of a concern among under-18s as it is among adults.  

A new study looked at 248 cases of MIS-C, a condition in which different body parts become inflamed, in pediatric patients with coronavirus out of more than nine million. Pictured: A five- year-old child in a hospital bed at Westchester Medical Center in Valhalla, New York, May 2020

Long Covid appears in patients that have recovered from the virus and continue exhibiting symptoms for weeks, or potentially months or years, after clearing the infection.

There are a wide-array of symptoms that can appear, including continued loss of taste and smell, long-term fatigue and long-term sensory issues.

The causes of the condition remain unknown and several studies are being conducted to examine long-term effects. 

Some theories of what causes long Covid include patients having persistently low levels of the virus or damage that COVID-19 causes to nerve pathways.  

CDC director Dr Rochelle Walensky has previously estimated between two percent and three percent of children suffer from long Covid. 

Most children who contract COVID-19 either have mild cases or are asymptomatic, not tending to get seriously ill or to die.

But for the small percentage who develop long Covid, the risks are not well understood, according to Dr Nigel Curtis.

'Current studies lack a clear case definition and age-related data, have variable follow-up times, and rely on self- or parent-reported symptoms without lab confirmation,' he said. 

'Another significant problem is that many studies have low response rates meaning they might overestimate the risk of long Covid.'

For the analysis, published in Pediatric Infectious Disease Journal, the team looked at 14 studies from around the world involving 19,426 children and teens who reported having long-term symptoms of the virus.

Among children, most symptoms resolved within four to 12 weeks after they first tested positive.

This is in comparison with long Covid adult patients, who report symptoms sometimes lasting between 24 weeks. and 32 weeks after recovering. 

The most common symptoms reported in children were fatigue, headache, difficulty concentrating, sleep disturbance and abdominal pain. 

Dr Petra Zimmermann, a pediatrics specialist at MCRI, said long Covid symptoms in children are often difficult to distinguish from symptoms that be linked to the pandemic such as school shutdowns and being able to see friends.

She says the findings suggest long Covid is likely less of a concern among kids and adolescents than it is among adults.  

'This highlights why it's critical that future studies involve more rigorous control groups, including children with other infections and those admitted to hospital or intensive care for other reasons,' she said.  

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