Long Covid rare in children, with less than 2% suffering symptoms for eight weeks or more

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Long Covid is very rare in school-aged children, with the majority of those under 17 who become ill with coronavirus recovering in less than a week, research has shown.

Less than 2% of those aged between five and 17 who contracted the virus went on to suffer with symptoms for eight weeks or more, according to findings from a study led by researchers at King’s College London.

The results, published in the Lancet Child and Adolescent Health journal, found fewer than one in 20 (4.4%) experienced symptoms for four weeks or more.

The most common symptoms reported were headaches, tiredness, a sore throat and loss of smell.

Previous analysis by King’s College London using the Zoe Covid Symptom Study showed around one in seven adults experienced Covid-19 symptoms lasting four weeks, while one in 20 were ill for eight weeks or longer.

In children aged five to 11 years old, the illness lasted on average for five days, while in children aged 12 to 17 it lasted around seven days, researchers said.

Scientists said it was reassuring that there were no reports of serious neurological symptoms such as fits or seizures, impaired concentration or anxiety.

Scientists looked at daily health reports logged in the Zoe Covid Study app and focused on September 2020 through to February 2021.

Of the 1,734 children reported by parents or carers with a clear start and end point to their symptoms and a positive PCR test result, just one in 50 (1.8%) had symptoms lasting more than eight weeks.

Senior author Emma Duncan, professor of clinical endocrinology at King’s College London, said: “We know from other studies that many children who catch coronavirus don’t show any symptoms at all; and it will be reassuring for families to know that those children who do fall ill with Covid-19 are unlikely to suffer prolonged effects.

“However, our research confirms that a small number do have a long illness duration with Covid-19, though these children too usually recover with time.

“We hope our results will be useful for doctors, parents, and schools caring for these children – and, of course, affected children themselves.”

Prof Duncan noted that as there is no current agreed definition for long Covid in children, the study was focused on the duration of illness rather than this specific condition.