A significant proportion of children and young people with Covid-19 have several continuing symptoms 15 weeks later, researchers have said.
Preliminary findings from the study, the largest in the world investigating Covid in children, said 14 per cent suffered from persistent health issues.
They suggest that patients could identify three or more symptoms of ill health, including unusual tiredness and headaches.
Children rarely become severely ill with Covid-19 but they can suffer lingering effects. The study is one of the largest on the prevalence of so-called long Covid in under-18s.
Lead author Professor Sir Terence Stephenson, of UCL Great Ormond Street Institute of Child Health, said the study could help clinicians who work with long Covid patients.
“There is consistent evidence that some teenagers will have persisting symptoms after testing positive for Sars-CoV-2. Our study supports this evidence, with headaches and unusual tiredness the most common complaints.”
“If we look at multiple symptoms, those who had a positive test [are] twice as likely to report three or more symptoms 15 weeks later.”
Data suggested that, over seven months between September 2020 and March 2021, between 4,000 and 32,000 11- to 17-year-olds who tested positive in England may have had multiple symptoms tied to Covid-19 infection 15 weeks later.
“This study is very important as it will inform our understanding of the long-term impacts of Covid-19 on the physical and mental health of children and young people,” said Dr Jonathan Pearce, director of Covid-19 response at UK Research and Innovation, a government agency.
“The more we can learn about how people react to Covid-19 in both the short and longer term, the better equipped we will be to help affected individuals and to deal with future infectious disease risks.”
The study surveyed 3,065 people aged from 11 to 17 in England who had positive results in a PCR test between January and March against a control group who had tested negative during the same period.
Researchers found there was no difference between the mental health and well-being scores of children who tested positive and those who tested negative.
Long Covid has been observed in many patients who contracted the coronavirus but until recently, many patients had difficulty persuading doctors that their continuing symptoms were related to the infection.