Children develop many other syndromes after having covid. It is common. Children can have a cough for months. Some people take months to recover their sense of smell and taste. Some people are too weak to attend school or have signs of heart damage. Symptoms can be resolved temporarily. Some children have a single symptom, while others have a constellation.
The differences in the severity of the symptoms may be overlooked in studies that compare children who did or did not contract the disease. A questionnaire that asks children if they have a headaches might not differentiate between mild head pain and a severe experience that leaves a child unable to open their eyes or get out of bed.
Long covid is likely to encompass several different conditions. The WHO needs more studies and research.
There is at least one agreement over a way to define long covid in children for research purposes.
The definition of long covid in children was published in February, and it states that symptoms must follow a confirmed case of covid-19, impact the child's life and physical, mental, or social well-being, and must persist. He hopes the WHO will align its definition with this one, but in the meantime it will help ensure that researchers are studying the same thing.
The only way to prevent long covid is to get a vaccine. It is not clear how much protection vaccines can give against long covid, but a few recent studies suggest that vaccination can reduce a child's risk of severe illness from the omicron variant by two-thirds.
It can follow mild or even asymptomatic infections, and it seems to be more of the case in children.
All children over the age of 5 in the US are recommended to have vaccinations because they can reduce the severity of cases. According to CDC data published by the American Academy of Pediatrics, as of March 30, 42% of 12- to 17-year-olds had received both doses of the covid-19 vaccine. Only 27% of those aged 5 to 11 had.
Covid-19 vaccinations for young children are a topic of debate in the UK. The UK's Joint Committee on Vaccination and Immunisation (JCVI), which advises the government, announced a plan to offer all children aged 5 to 11 a covid-19 vaccine just last month.
Absoud thinks that the JCVI have got it right.
"A hell of a lot of children" are affectedBinita Kane at Manchester University NHS Foundation Trust
There are other ways to reduce transmission among children. The experts we contacted said that keeping schools open is important and that measures such as improving air quality and masking can help keep case numbers down.
There are arguments over the prevalence of long covid in children, but it is important to remember that all children who are affected by the disease need support to recover.
If only 1% of children develop long covid following an infection, the total number of affected children will reach millions. The guidance from the JCVI suggests that 85% of children in the UK aged 5 to 11 had been exposed to the virus by the end of January 2022, before they were eligible for vaccine.
The daughter of Kane is doing better. Kane says that a new treatment regime seems to have helped, and while it hasn't completely restored her energy levels, she's improved.
While researchers debate prevalence, the focus is drawn away from biological causes and potential treatments, meaning many other children are still suffering.
“We can’t wait for years,” Kane says. “We need to move on.”