Medical providers across the nation, including here at Nationwide Children’s Hospital, are seeing an increase in cases of what is being called long, or long-haul COVID. Here is what you need to know about the condition, which refers to cases with continuing symptoms that last beyond a few weeks.
What Are the Symptoms?
The most reported symptoms in people with long COVID include:
Respiratory issues including shortness of breath, chest pain or cough
Change in taste and smell
How Common Is Long COVID in Children?
It is believed that anywhere between 15 and 40% of children who are infected with COVID-19 will have long COVID.
Are Some Children Affected More Than Others?
Long COVID appears to be impacting those who were asymptomatic, and those with mild or severe illness, equally. A higher number of cases are being seen in teenagers; however, it is thought to be the result of older children being better able to communicate how they are feeling after infection.
What Causes Long COVID?
The most popular hypothesis for what causes long COVID is that a part of the COVID-19 virus remains hidden in a person’s body. Symptoms of long COVID occur when your body’s immune system continues to fight the virus.
What Treatment Is Available for Long COVID?
Based on each patient’s individual symptoms, treatment can include:
Close monitoring of heart inflammation and respiratory concerns
Mental health support
What Should I Do if I Think My Child Has Long COVID?
If your child had COVID-19, or you suspect they have long COVID, a follow-up visit to their primary care doctor can help:
Monitor ongoing symptoms
Identify new symptoms
Develop a treatment plan
Determine a return-to-activity (sports, school, employment, etc.) timeline
How Can I Help Prevent My Child From Getting Long COVID?
The best form of protection against COVID-19 and long COVID is vaccination. Wearing a mask, maintaining physical distancing and washing your hands frequently are also proven methods for slowing the spread of the virus.
COVID-19 and long COVID are relatively new diseases caused by the SARS-CoV-2 virus and require more research to determine long-term effects. However, nearly all children, with the proper treatment, recover fully from long COVID within three to six months.
Octavio Ramilo, MD, is the Henry G. Cramblett Chair in Infectious Diseases and professor of Pediatrics at The Ohio State University College of Medicine and Division Chief of Infectious Diseases at Nationwide Children's Hospital.
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