Long Covid on children, symptoms and duration: the first study

Long Covid, 17% of Italian children and adolescents who have had the infection manifests symptoms after 3 months. The most common are nasal congestion, headache and fatigue, while the most persistent over time appears to be insomnia.

I study

The data emerge from the first prospective study on Long Covid conducted on Italian children and adolescents, coordinated byUniversity hospital of Parma, the preliminary results of which were illustrated at the 77th Congress of the Italian Society of Pediatricians (Sip) in Sorrento. The study, which began in November 2021 and will end in March 2026, conducted on 14 centers throughout the country, has so far enrolled about 1,000 children and adolescents with a previous SarS-CoV-2 infection of varying severity.

“Identify the potential long-term consequences of Long Covid and the relationship with acute infection is important for patient management and rehabilitation. The inclusion criteria of this study are very stringent as they envisage the longitudinal enrollment of a large number of subjects who have had a recent diagnosis of SarS-CoV-2 infection, proposing research in the participating centers to all those who were found to be positive to the molecular swab in a specific time interval ”, says the study coordinator, Susanna Esposito, full professor of Pediatrics and director of the Pediatric Clinic of the University of Parma, in charge of the Infectious Diseases and Vaccinations Technical Table of the Sip.

Symptoms 3 months later

Of the 670 patients diagnosed with Covid-19 who participated in the study and for whom the first data are available (51.5% male and 48.5% female), 31% had a previous disease, only 1.8 % needed hospitalization, in 15% of cases the infection was asymptomatic. Three months after the infection, 118 children (equal to 17.6% of the sample) show at least one symptom of Long Covid. Among them, 110 children (16.4%) show at least 2 symptoms, 84 children (12%) at least 3 symptoms.

Frequent symptoms

But what are they the most frequent manifestations of Long Covid in the population surveyed by the study? Nasal congestion (17%), headache (15%), fatigue (13%), poor appetite (10%), insomnia (9%), persistent cough (8%), abdominal pain (6%), confusion and loss of concentration (5.2%) and rash (4.9%). Among children who feel fatigued (equal to 13% of the sample), about one in 4 feel the need to rest more than usual, 19% feel more sleepy, 11% have less energy than usual.

Some symptoms such as nasal congestion, poor appetite, skin rash tend to occur, in the vast majority of cases, in a mild manner. But symptoms such as fatigue, insomnia, loss of concentration and headache often manifest themselves with more prominent symptoms. In particular, about 43% of children struggling with these disorders complain of moderate to severe forms of fatigue and lack of concentration. As for the duration of symptoms, according to the data collected so far, the most persistent are headaches with 10% of children suffering from it even 4-6 months after the infection and insomnia: 3.6% suffer from it at 6 months away; 1.8% at 7-9 months, and the percentage of those who suffer from it a year later is similar.

“Long Covid is also a real problem in children and adolescents. Our research demonstrates the need not to underestimate persistent symptoms that can cause enormous discomfort for the little ones with the impairment of their daily life and the importance of a personalized approach based on the symptoms present. These results once again underline the importance of vaccination against Covid even in the smallest ones to avoid distant complications, which can also occur in those who have had an infection that is not particularly serious in the acute phase ”, comments Esposito.

In collaboration with Adnkronos


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