Long Covid: number of children battling long-term effects on the rise, experts warn

The increase coincides with a global increase in Covid-19 cases among children

MANAUS, BRAZIL - MAY 21: An indigenous boy observes nurses while waiting for vaccination at Parque das Tribos community, on May 21 2020 in Manaus, Brazil.  Medical teams from Healths Secretary of Manaus area performing vaccination against flu and testing to detect coronavirus (COVID-19) infecctions on indigenous  communities. (Photo by Andre Coelho/Getty Images)
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Health experts have warned of a rise in the number of children suffering from the long-term effects of Covid-19.

The increase in young people with symptoms of long Covid coincides with a global rise in Covid-19 infections among children.

The easing of travel restrictions and many children being unable to receive a vaccine are among the main reasons for the trend, doctors told The National.

“I am expecting to see more long Covid in children just as we are seeing in other countries,” said Professor Philip Fischer, a paediatrician based in Sheikh Shakhbout Medical City, Abu Dhabi.

“Long Covid is an issue but it is not prevalent yet but we have already seen an increase in inflammatory issues among children that have tested positive.”

Symptoms to look out for

He said common symptoms of long Covid to be aware of included fatigue, dizziness and brain fog, which he described as an inability to think straight.

An increase in Covid-19 infections among children was not surprising to Professor Fischer, given the relaxation of travel restrictions in the wake of global vaccination programmes.

“I am expecting to see more children infected but hopefully not as many getting sick and dying as we saw in adults,” he said, speaking on the sidelines of the Arab Heath trade exhibition in Dubai’s World Trade Centre.

UAE's school vaccination drive:

“We will see more long-hauler kids as children are just as vulnerable as anyone else who has not been vaccinated.

“Unless they have underlying health conditions they are less likely to get sick and die from Covid-19 though.

“However, less likely does not mean impossible.”

Evidence of rise in numbers

Global studies have shown there is increasing evidence that cases of long Covid-19 among children are on the up.

An educator wears a face mask as she speaks with a girl on April 20, 2020 in the "L'etoile du berger" institution for children in social or parental distress in La Mulatière near Lyon, during the 35th day of a strict lockdown in France aimed at curbing the spread of the COVID-19 infection caused by the novel coronavirus. (Photo by JEAN-PHILIPPE KSIAZEK / AFP)
There has been a global rise of children infected with Covid-19. Courtesy: AFP

A team of international scientists performed a study on more than 500 children who were admitted to a Moscow hospital suffering from Covid-19 earlier this year.

The results of the study, conducted by the International Severe Acute Respiratory and Emerging Infection Consortium (Isaric), showed that almost a quarter of children (24 per cent), had symptoms more than five months since being discharged from hospital.

Data published recently by the UK’s Office for National Statistics (ONS) suggested 13 per cent of under 11s and around 15 per cent of 12-to 16-year-olds had reported at least one symptom five weeks after testing positive for the virus.

Another UAE-based doctor said a very small number of children who made a recovery from Covid-19 now had a condition called mis-c (multisystem inflammatory syndrome in children).

“No exact data is available but the case numbers are not very significant,” said Dr Sandeep Kuchi, paediatrics specialist with Aster Hospital, Al Qusais.

“All over the world the number of children being infected with Covid-19 is increasing but there is no need to panic.

“The severity of infection among children has been much less so far compared to adults.”

A Dubai-based paediatrician said long Covid tended to be rare among young children.

“It is much more noticeable among teenagers than small children,” said Dr Danny Alsalloum, Medcare Women and Children Hospital, Dubai.

“The majority of cases involve symptoms of a gastric problem or fatigue.”