Children also have long term covid. And it can manifest in unexpected ways

Kim Ford remembers November 10 very well. It was on this day last year that her 9-year-old son, Jack, was due to be vaccinated against Covid-19 at the school clinic. They were thrilled that the boy finally had some protection. However, the night before, Jack was sniffling.

“When he woke up and felt even worse, he said, ‘You know what, we’re going to test you before you come in, because I don’t want you to get vaccinated if you’re infected. ‘” said this mother from Michigan State.

Jack tested positive for Covid-19 that day. Since then, he has lived with the symptoms of the disease.

This kept him from staying in school all day. He has to limit the time he spends playing baseball with the other kids in the neighborhood. Even when you play Fortnite for a long time, it can make you sick the next day.

He is one of millions of children with long-term covid.

“I have a stomach ache and it’s hard to breathe. I also have a stuffy nose. You can feel an incredible amount of stuff. Sometimes it’s really irritating. It’s not like having a cold . It’s like covid,” Jack Ford said.

“People may think we’re faking it, but we’re not. A person feels like they have covid,” he added.

“An undiagnosed problem”

Some experts say it’s not yet known for sure how many children develop long-term covid. This is because there is not enough research, in this age group, on the subject.

According to the American Academy of Pediatrics, since the start of the pandemic, nearly 13 million children have tested positive for Covid-19. Studies suggest that between 2% and 10% of these children will develop long-term covid. However, the number could be higher. Many parents may not know their child has long-term covid, or the child’s pediatrician has not recognized the symptoms as such.

In adults, some surveys put the number at around 30% of cases.

“Personally, I think this is an undiagnosed problem,” said Dr. Sara Kirsten Sexton Tejtel. This doctor runs a pediatric clinic that treats covid long-term, at Texas Children’s Hospital in Houston.

Across the country, many doctors caring for children in clinics aiming for long-term Covid treatment say there are long waiting lists for an appointment. Some do not have vacancies until September.

An unusual set of symptoms

There are no specific tests for long-term covid. It is not known which children will have this pathology, because it can happen even when a child has a mild case of covid-19.

“It’s surprising how many children come forward with a range of symptoms that we don’t fully recognize. Some children develop heart failure after having asymptomatic infections caused by covid,” said Dr. Jeffrey Kahn. , chief of the Division of Pediatric Infectious Diseases at the University of Texas Southwestern Medical Center at Dallas. “What strikes me is that it usually happens around four weeks after infection, although the infection can be asymptomatic. It’s really surprising.”

Even when children with long-term Covid are tested for conditions that can cause these symptoms, nothing may show up.

“They tested me and it didn’t look like I had anything wrong. They did their best to find something,” Jack Ford said.

Pulmonary function tests and electrocardiogram results were normal. “The clinic said this is very common in children with long-term covid. Sometimes all the tests are normal,” Kim Ford said.

Dr. Amy Edwards, who runs the long-term Covid pediatric clinic in Cleveland at Rainbow Babies & Children’s University Hospital, agreed that this happens often.

“We looked at the patients’ gastrointestinal tracts and everything is normal. I’m doing immunological tests and the children’s immune systems appear normal. Everything seems normal. However, the children are not normal,” Edwards said to recall. that there are limits. what medical science understands and can test. Sometimes we’re not smart enough to know where to look.”

“Adult issues tend to be more evident once organ dysfunction shows up in tests,” Edwards said.

Doctors are still trying to figure out why long-lasting covid manifests in children like this. Likewise, they find out what symptoms define this pathology in children. Some studies on adults show a range of 200 symptoms. However, there is no universal clinical case definition.

At the Texas clinic of Sexson Tejte, children fall into several categories. Some suffer from fatigue, mental fog and violent headaches, “to the point that some children cannot go to school”. “That’s why your grades went down. It’s those kinds of issues,” she said.

One group has heart problems such as heart palpitations, chest pains and dizziness, especially when resuming their normal activities. Another group has stomach problems. Many of these children also have a change in their sense of smell and taste.

Sexson Tejte said it’s not entirely different from adult symptoms, “but it’s not a mixture of different organ systems like in adults.”

“Once the battery is dead, it runs out of power”

One of the symptoms of Jack Ford affects the amount of energy you have for your normal activities.

“Long-time Covid patients suffer from post-exercise malaise. That’s Jack’s biggest problem,” Kim Ford said. “It can happen if he’s trying too hard, although my son isn’t physically overreacting. For example, if Jack was upset about something the night before, or if he was mentally involved in something like: watching TV or playing a game. sitting on the chair is all exhausting for him.

Energy has become such a problem that Jack can’t go to school for an entire day. Every day, his parents started taking their son to school for one to two hours. Gradually they increased to about five and a half hours a day.

“We’re trying to get there at six, but so far that hasn’t been possible,” Kim Ford said. “The next day he woke up very unhappy.”

Edwards, who is in charge of the long-term Covid clinic in Cleveland, says he needs to talk to parents to carefully balance the energy expended by their children. Healthy people, even if they are tired, can demand more of themselves. However, those who suffer from covid long term cannot exaggerate. “It’s like they have a battery. You have to use it carefully in school, playing and watching TV. Everything you do requires energy. Once the battery is dead , she’s running out,” Edwards said.

Some of your teenage patients are just getting exhausted from dealing with typical school stuff.

“Patients with long-term symptoms need to think about all aspects of their day. Also, they need to think about where they’re going to spend that energy. They need to have that balance. Otherwise, they burn out.”

Many also suffer from anxiety. Some of this may stem from the disease itself. However, it also happens because of the doubt doctors or adults show when patients say they don’t feel well.

Experts across the country say patient complaints are ignored, even when there is a marked change in their condition. Doctors tell patients they are being dramatic, demanding attention, or the symptoms are just in their head.

“I don’t want to be too critical, but there are doctors who simply dismiss these complaints,” said Dr. Alexandra Yonts, director of the National Post-Covid Clinic for Children in Washington. “Children fight. They send them everywhere.”

Yonts thinks that, among doctors, there needs to be a better recognition that long-term Covid can be a real problem.

“I have two patients who are currently using a wheelchair after having had covid. They have never had to use it before. One boy walks on crutches and another child has lost the ability to use his hands” , Edwards said. . “We have to believe in these children.”

Help is available, but not everyone has access

There is no specific treatment for patients with long-term covid, but most of these clinics are multidisciplinary.

At the Edwards Clinic, which opened last year, specialists can treat lung issues, digestive issues, physical rehabilitation, sleep issues, mental health issues and more. There is a nutritionist on staff, as well as an acupuncturist and a pediatrician certified in Chinese herbal medicine.

In addition to working with children so they can figure out where they want to spend their energy and when to take breaks, Edwards’ clinic teaches patients how to meditate. They do therapeutic massages and meditation exercises.

“Children need multiple elements of help. If we are more intense, they improve dramatically. Likewise, they receive intensive support and therapy,” Edwards said.

However, not all children can access the clinic.

“I’ve spoken to a lot of people who work in pediatric covid recovery. They’re all saying the same thing: ‘We’re worried about the kids because they’re not getting help. Not all of them are getting support from their parents , nor they have access to the medical system. won’t let me sleep at night,” Edwards said.

A big part of your clinic’s job is to encourage children to get enough sleep and eat healthy foods. However, not all families can afford to buy healthy foods.

“It terrifies me, because these families, in particular, are already starting this struggle with some delay. They now have children with long-term Covid,” Edwards said. “We have to wait for more people to become aware of the problem and try to help.”

Leave a Comment