Study Finds Long COVID In Children May Cause A Significantly Higher Risk For Adverse Outcomes

While there are still many unknowns about the effects of long COVID, more and more research is being done to understand it. A new study explored long COVID in children, finding that while overall rates of long COVID are still low, the risk of serious outcomes may be higher among those who have it.

Long COVID is defined by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) as new or ongoing health problems that are present for at least four weeks after infection with COVID-19. Symptoms can vary widely, but common ones can include fatigue, fever, shortness of breath, cough, brain fog, change in smell or taste, depression or anxiety, digestive issues, and joint pain. Some people who experienced severe infection could develop autoimmune conditions or multiorgan effects, in which many parts of the body are affected such as the heart, lung, kidney, skin, and brain. These could make them more likely to develop other problems such as diabetes, heart conditions, or neurological conditions.

You're more likely to get long COVID if you had a severe COVID illness, had underlying health issues, are not vaccinated, or experienced multisystem inflammatory syndrome (MIS) during or after COVID.

How long COVID may impact kids and teens

While children aren't any more likely to develop long COVID than adults, a new study published in the CDC's Morbidity and Mortality Weekly Report shows that children and teenagers who do get long COVID have twice the risk of developing serious effects, compared to those who didn't have COVID (via WebMD). Serious outcomes included heart inflammation, blood clots in the lung, and blood clots in the lower leg, thigh, or pelvis.

Researchers looked at data on post-COVID conditions of 781,419 children and teenagers who had COVID-19, comparing it with the data of 2,344,257 who never had COVID-19. They found that in comparison to kids who had no history of COVID-19, those kids with long COVID were 101% more likely to have a blood clot in the lung, 99% more likely to have heart conditions, 87% more likely to have a blood clot in a vein, 32% more likely to have acute kidney failure, and 23% more likely to have type 1 diabetes. While the numbers were still low for both groups, the CDC pointed out in a news release that "even a small increase in these conditions is notable" (per WebMD).

The research emphasized the importance of COVID prevention strategies like vaccination. However, it also came with limitations. Researchers noted that data wasn't adjusted for vaccination status, people in the no COVID group may have had it but not been diagnosed, and some data included long COVID outcomes but not their severity.