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    Long COVID in children: What to know about infection rate, symptoms, length – NJ.com

    Most children and teens who test positive for COVID-19 present little to no symptoms, but a fraction of them will still show symptoms more than a month after they were first infected with the coronavirus.

    Here is what to know about how many kids get long COVID, the symptoms, and how long they can occur in children and teens.

    Dr. Sandra Adams, a professor of biology and virologist at Montclair State University, told NJ Advance Media that “studies differ” and “numbers vary from 5% to as high as 15% of children worldwide” who get long COVID.

    Dr. Bruce Patterson, a former medical director of diagnostic virology at Stanford University who is now with IncellDx and the Chronic Covid Treatment Center, said that a small fraction of the kids who come down with COVID get long COVID.

    “The long COVID percentage, which has always been tossed around as being 10-30% of everybody who has been infected by COVID, I would say that number is fairly accurate,” Patterson told NJ Advance Media. “With kids, I would say that number is towards the lower end of that spectrum,” he added.

    Most of the limited studies back up experts claims.

    The U.K. Office of National Statistics’ most recent report on long COVID in kids in the U.K. estimated that 14.5% of children ages 12-16 and 12.9% of children ages 2-11 experienced symptoms up to five weeks since they were first infected.

    But some limited studies show that the percentage of kids with long COVID could be much higher.

    One study of long COVID in children showed that more than half of kids between 6 and 16 years of age who came down with the coronavirus had at least one lasting symptom that occurred for more than 120 days, with 42.6% of those kids reporting symptoms that interfered with their daily lives.

    The most common symptoms of long COVID in children and teens include the following:

    • Brain fog
    • Fatigue
    • Trouble breathing
    • Cough
    • Joint or muscle pain
    • Chest or stomach pain
    • Fever
    • Headache
    • Mood swings
    • Lightheadedness upon standing
    • Heart palpitations
    • Loss of sense of smell or taste

    Experts say certain symptoms present themselves only in children when it comes to long COVID. Adams mentioned a study that showed some children had signs of chronic inflammation.

    Patterson said “the symptoms are pretty much the same” as adults who get COVID, but there is one symptom in particular that he said in his experiences with patients really stuck out.

    “With kids, it’s really the fatigue is what’s so striking,” he said, before briefly describing a telemedicine encounter he had with a pediatric patient with long COVID who played hockey and “couldn’t move after 20 minutes.”

    Patterson also said some kids with long COVID have trouble doing homework due to “brain fog.”

    There is still a lot to learn about how long COVID symptoms can linger in both vaccinated and unvaccinated children and teens.

    Experts say there are general timeframes in which long COVID tends to run its course.

    “Children with long COVID usually have symptoms lasting from four to eight weeks,” Adams said. “Some symptoms persist as long as 12 weeks.”

    Patterson said that with intervention, symptoms resolve within weeks. But without intervention, it could take months, he said.

    One study reported in the Journal of the American Medical Association found that one out of 25 kids had “at least one symptom that lasted longer than 12 weeks.”

    Most experts are not sure about what the long-term effects of long COVID are on children and teens simply because there have not been enough studies that have been done.

    Patterson did give an optimistic view, though, saying that in his experience, 95% of his patients “returned to their pre-COVID levels.”

    Related stories about COVID-19:

    How to get a COVID booster shot at CVS, Walgreens or Rite Aid

    COVID breakthrough cases: What to know about symptoms, length, quarantine, long-term effects

    The side effects to look out for if you get a COVID booster shot

    Vaccination schedule for children: When can kids under 12 get the COVID vaccine?

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    Katherine Rodriguez can be reached at krodriguez@njadvancemedia.com. Have a tip? Tell us at nj.com/tips.

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