April 5, 2023

In The News: ‘We Have Work Cut Out for Us’: Raising Awareness of Pediatric Long COVID

Healio reports on a webinar and published study focused on long COVID and pediatric patients. One key takeaway was that the medical field needs to overcome the perception that children are not perceptible to long COVID. Approximately one in eight patients with COVID-19 experiences long COVID, which the CDC measures by four weeks of symptoms while the WHO uses a broader definition. Calls for more research into long COVID’s nature and effects continue.

The study examined long COVID in individuals aged 12 to 25 years of age. The international study used the WHO definition and found symptom severity at baseline was the main risk factor. Low physical activity and loneliness were associated with the outcome, which led to suggestions that psychological factors be considered risks for persistent symptoms.

From the webinar, experts said the misconception that children cannot get long COVID is common, even among those caring for children. Many attribute long COVID symptoms to depression or anxiety instead of COVID-19. Children do struggle with depression and anxiety, but also long COVID, and, according to one expert, if they do not receive support it will be tougher for them to return to normal.

The director of University Hospitals Rainbow Babies and Children’s Hospital long COVID clinic is PIDS member Amy Edwards. Treatments at the rehabilitation clinic can include acupuncture, massage therapy, stimulants and diet modifications, but often not painkillers, in hopes of controlling kids’ symptoms. Dr. Edwards estimates 50% to 60% respond well and bounce back after six to nine months of support.

The article concludes with a personal story from a mother of a 12-year-old daughter who has dealt with long COVID since 2020. The mother relays the painful conditions her daughter experiences, including having a physician dismiss her long COVID symptoms. That outcome was exactly what the experts quoted from the webinar were trying to address.

PIDS member Amy Edwards is quoted from the webinar. She said, “I have seen pediatricians, rheumatologists, immunologists all say…‘this is not a thing in children…I’ve done grand rounds here in my own hospital and then some of the surrounding hospitals, I’ve done news presentations, anything just to try to get the word out that long COVID is real. It is a thing that kids experience, and we have to help these kids because otherwise there are serious concerns about what the long-term outcomes for these kids might be if they don’t get help.” PIDS member Uzma Hasan is also quoted.

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