5% of children in UK study experienced COVID-19 symptoms for at least 28 days
Roughly 5% of children aged 5 to 17 years experienced COVID-19 symptoms for at least 28 days, and almost 2% were still experiencing them after 56 days, according to the results of a study in the United Kingdom.
Scientists continue to learn about long COVID, which the CDC defines as new or ongoing symptoms of COVID-19 that occur for 4 weeks are more. Long COVID has been documented in children but is more common in adults. The AAP this week issued guidance on caring for children with long COVID.
For their study, Erika Molteni, PhD, a research fellow at King’s College London, and colleagues assessed data from children in the U.K. that were reported via a mobile app by an adult proxy.
Overall, 258,790 children were proxy-reported from March 24, 2020, through Feb. 22, 2021. The study included 1,734 children who had a positive SARS-CoV-2 test result and calculable illness duration between Sept. 1, 2020, through Jan. 24, 2021.
The median duration of illness among the children was 6 days and was shorter among younger children than older children (5 days vs. 7 days). The most common symptoms reported among all children were headache (62.2%) and fatigue (55%).
Among younger children, common symptoms were fever (43.7%), sore throat (36.2%), abdominal pain (27.7%), and persistent cough (24.7%). In older children, symptoms reported were sore throat (51%), anosmia (48.3%), fever (34.6%), and persistent cough (26%).
Of the 1,734 children, 77 (4.4%) presented symptoms after 28 days. The median number of symptoms were six in the first week, and eight over the course of the entire illness.
After 28 days, the median symptom burden decreased to two. The most common symptoms were fatigue (84.4%), headache (77.9%), anosmia (77.9%) and sore throat (74%).
After 56 days, 25 children (1.8%) still experienced symptoms of COVID-19. Common symptoms were anosmia (84%), headache (80%), sore throat (80%), and fatigue (76%).
According to the authors, older children were more likely to manifest COVID-19 symptoms after 28 days, an observation not seen after 56 days.
“Although COVID-19 in children is usually of short duration with low symptom burden, some children with COVID-19 experience prolonged illness duration,” the authors wrote. “Reassuringly, symptom burden in these children did not increase with time, and most recovered by day 56.”