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Children can also suffer from prolonged covid-19, and it can present itself in unexpected ways

2022-05-06T23:52:23.356Z


Some minors have prolonged covid symptoms, even after a mild case of covid-19, with symptoms that differ from adults.


What is prolonged covid and how do you live with it?

4:15

(CNN) --

November 10 is a day Kim Ford remembers all too well.

It was the day last year that her 9-year-old son, Jack, was due to receive the covid-19 vaccine at the school clinic.

They were excited that he would finally have some protection, but on November 9 he caught a cold.


"When she woke up [on November 10] and felt even worse, I said, 'You know what, we're going to get you tested before you go, because I don't want you to get the vaccine if you really have covid,'" the mother said. from Michigan.

That day, Jack tested positive for covid-19 and has lived with the symptoms ever since.

Long or prolonged covid has prevented him from being in school all day.

He has to limit how much he plays baseball with the other kids in his neighborhood.

Even playing Fortnite for too long can make you feel sick the next day.

He is one of the potential millions of children with prolonged covid.

"My stomach hurts. I'm having trouble breathing. My nose is stuffy. It's an absurd amount of things you can feel," said Jack Ford.

"It's really annoying sometimes. It's not like a cold, you know, it feels like covid."

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"People may think you're faking it, but no. You feel like you have covid," he added.

Jack Ford, 9, fell ill with covid in November and has had symptoms ever since

An undiagnosed problem

It's not clear how many children develop long-term covid because there isn't enough research on it in this age group, some experts say.

Nearly 13 million children have tested positive for COVID-19 since the start of the pandemic, according to the American Academy of Pediatrics.

Studies suggest that between 2% and 10% of those children will develop long covid, but the figure may be higher.

Many parents may not know that their child has prolonged covid, or that the child's pediatrician may not have recognized it as such.

In adults, some research puts the figure at around 30% of cases.

  • How to know if you have prolonged covid?

    These are the symptoms to watch out for

"Personally, I think it's a very underdiagnosed problem," says Dr. Sara Kristen Sexson Tejtel, who helps run a pediatric long-Covid clinic at Texas Children's Hospital in Houston.

Many doctors treating minors at long-term Covid clinics across the country say they have long waits for appointments.

Some are reserved until September.

An unusual range of symptoms

There are no specific tests for long covid.

It is not clear which minors are more likely to suffer from it, since it can occur even when they have a mild case of covid-19.

"It's surprising how many children are presenting with a range of symptoms that we haven't fully appreciated. Some are coming in with heart failure after asymptomatic COVID infections," said Dr. Jeffrey Kahn, chief of the Division of Pediatric Infectious Diseases. from UT Southwestern Medical Center in Dallas.

"What strikes me is that it usually occurs about four weeks after infection, and it can be really asymptomatic, which is really surprising."

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

"They tested me and it seemed like nothing was wrong with me, but they did everything they could to find something," said Jack Ford.

His pulmonary function test and electrocardiogram were normal.

"The covid clinic said this is very common in children with long covid. Sometimes all the tests come back normal," says Kim Ford.

Dr. Amy Edwards, who directs the pediatric long-covid clinic at UH Rainbow Babies & Children's Hospital in Cleveland, agreed that this happens frequently.

"We also listen to them and their GI tracts are normal. I do a big immunological study and their immune system appears normal. Everything 'seems normal,' but the children are not functioning as usual," Edwards said.

"I tell families to remember that there are limits to what medical science understands and can prove. Sometimes we just aren't smart enough to know where to look."

Adult problems tend to be more obvious, Edwards says, because they're more likely to have organ dysfunction that shows up on tests.

Doctors are still trying to understand why prolonged covid occurs this way in minors.

They are also finding out what symptoms define prolonged or long covid in children.

Some studies in adults show a range of 200 symptoms, but there is no universal clinical case definition.

  • Long-term covid-19 can be a chronic (and very expensive) disease for millions of people

At the Sexson Tejte clinic in Texas, the children tend to fall into a few categories.

Some have fatigue, brain fog and severe headaches, "to the point where some kids aren't able to go to school, grades are failing, those kinds of problems," she said.

Another group has heart problems, such as palpitations, chest pains, and dizziness, especially when they return to their usual activities.

Another group has gastrointestinal problems.

Many of them also have a change in their sense of taste and smell.

Sexson Tejte said it's not totally different from the symptoms that adults have, "but it's not the mix of different organ system involvement in adults."

"Once the bucket is empty, it's over"

One of Jack Ford's symptoms affects the amount of energy he has for day-to-day activities.

"Long Covid patients have post-exercise discomfort, which is Jack's biggest problem," Kim Ford said.

"So if he overdoes it, and it doesn't even have to be overdoing it physically, it could be that he was really upset about something the day before, or he could be really busy mentally with something like watching TV or playing video games sitting in his chair. It will leave you exhausted."

Power has become such a problem that Jack can't go to school for a full day.

His parents started with one or two hours a day and have gradually increased it to about 5½ hours a day.

"We've tried upping it to six, but it hasn't worked so far," says Kim Ford.

"He woke up pretty bad the next day."

Edwards, who runs the long covid clinic in Cleveland, says she needs to talk to parents about how to carefully balance the amount of energy their kids expend.

Most healthy people can hang on if they're tired, but those with long covid can't.

"It's like you have a bucket of energy, and you have to use it carefully for school, to play, to watch TV. Everything you do requires energy, and once that bucket is empty, that's it," he said. Edwards.

  • Covid-19 cases in children in the US increased by about 44% last week

Some of her teenage patients are exhausted just dealing with typical school drama.


"Those who have been in school a long time have to think about all aspects of their day and when they can expend that energy. They have to have that balance. If not, they burn out."

Many also have anxiety.

Some of it may come from the illness itself or from the doubts doctors or adults have when they say they don't feel well.

Experts across the country say they have heard from patients whose complaints are ignored, even after a sudden change in their health.

They have been told that they are being dramatic or seeking attention, or that the symptoms are all in their head.

"I don't want to be too critical, but there are some doctors who dismiss it out of hand," says Dr. Alexandra Yonts, director of the post-Covid clinic at Children's National in Washington.

"The children then just fight. They are passed from one place to another."

Yonts believes doctors need to better recognize that prolonged covid can be a real problem.

"I have two children in wheelchairs after having Covid who have never been in a wheelchair before. There is a child with crutches. I have a child who lost the use of his hands," says Edward.

"You have to believe these kids."

There is help, but not everyone has access

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

At the Edwards clinic, which opened last year, experts can treat pulmonary issues, digestive problems, physical rehabilitation, sleep problems and mental health issues, among others.

There is a nutritionist on staff, as well as an acupuncturist and a pediatrician specializing in Chinese herbal medicine.

In addition to creating a child's schedule so they can determine where to spend their energy and when to take breaks, the Edwards clinic teaches them how to meditate.

They do massage therapy and mind-body exercises.

"Children need multiple elements of support. They do improve significantly, really, if we're aggressive and get intensive support and therapy," Edwards said.

  • Reinforcement of the vaccine against covid-19 increases antibodies against the omicron variant in children aged 5 to 11 years, say Pfizer and BioNTech

But not all children can go to a clinic.

"I've talked to a lot of people who work in pediatric recovery from COVID, and they all say the same thing: 'We're concerned about kids who don't get help, who don't have parents who can advocate for them or navigate the medical system.' keeps you awake at night," says Edwards.

Much of what her clinic does is encourage children to get enough sleep and eat healthy foods, but not every family can afford healthy eating.

"I'm terrified for those families in particular, because they're already starting behind. And now they have children with long Covid," Edwards said.

"We can only hope that more people are aware of the problem and try to help."

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Source: cnnespanol

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