Little is known about the risk factors for developing Long Covid after a corona infection. An international study has now been able to find indications of when children are in danger.
People who are sick with Corona can show symptoms for several months. However, studies of Long Covid and its risk factors have so far lacked data and representative samples from the population. As part of an international study, American researchers have now found indications of when children suffering from corona are exposed to a higher risk of still suffering from symptoms months later. Duration of hospitalization, age and intensity of symptoms play a role.
Risk factors studied in 3,500 children
In an international study, researchers from the University of Carolina interviewed parents and their children who had to go to the emergency room between March 2020 and January 2021 due to corona. Those affected were questioned for two weeks after the visit and continued to be interviewed for up to three months afterwards. The researchers observed 1,884 children with Covid and 1,701 children without Covid, who went to the hospital for other reasons. The participants in the study came from eight countries: Argentina, Canada, Costa Rica, Italy, Paraguay, Singapore, Spain and the United States. However, the majority came from the USA.
One in ten children with Long Covid
The results suggest that several risk factors can predict which children with Corona will exhibit Long Covid in the 90 days after infection. This includes four or more signs of illness in the initial phase of the infection and a hospital stay of more than two days. Age also played a role. Persistent symptoms were more common in children 14 years and older.
About one in ten children (9.8 percent) admitted to hospital with an infection reported having long-term Covid three months later. These often include fatigue, cough and shortness of breath. Of the corona-positive children who were sent home directly from the emergency room, 4.6 percent still had symptoms 90 days later.
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Long Covid or Collateral Damage?
So about 10 percent of children hospitalized with Corona reported signs of Long Covid after 90 days. At the same time, however, the study showed that children who were in hospital for reasons other than Corona also had similar characteristics. About 5 percent of them still suffered from fatigue, difficulty concentrating or stomach pain three months later.
According to the researchers, this would show that other factors in connection with the pandemic also play a role. For example, lockdown, isolation and lack of social contact can also have an impact on persistent symptoms. “The effects of the Covid era include not only Covid infection, but also a significant increase in mental illness,” explains study co-author Dr. Nathan Kuppermann in the press release.
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Three risk factors for prolonged Covid
The study nevertheless shows which risk factors for Long Covid one should pay particular attention to. From a hospital stay of 48 hours, from four symptoms at the beginning of the infection and from the age of 14, the probability of long-term symptoms apparently increases. In the case of the latter, however, there is a possibility that older children may express their symptoms better than younger ones. Nevertheless, the results show “which children we need to keep a close eye on during their recovery after a positive Covid test,” concludes Kuppermann.