One in four children with COVID-19 symptoms develop “long COVID,” according to data pooled from 21 earlier studies conducted in Europe, Asia, Australia and South America.
Among the 80,071 children with COVID-19 in the studies, 25% developed symptoms that lasted at least 4-to-12 weeks or new persistent symptoms that appeared within 12 weeks, researchers reported on Sunday on medRxiv ahead of peer review.
The most frequent problems were neuropsychiatric (mood symptoms, fatigue, sleep disorders, headaches, cognitive alterations, dizziness, balance problems), cardiorespiratory (breathing difficulty, congestion, exercise intolerance, chest pain and tightness, cough, irregular heart rhythm), skin-related (excessive sweating, itchiness, hair loss) and gastrointestinal (abdominal pain, constipation, diarrhea, vomiting, and nausea).
Analyses of data pooled from many different studies with different methodologies cannot yield firm conclusions, the researchers acknowledge.
What is clear, however, is that “children and adolescents have also physical and mental health consequences derived from COVID-19,” said study coauthor Sonia Villapol of Houston Methodist Research Institute in Texas.
“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.”