(CNN) – Even the smallest children can experience long COVID-19, according to a large study, one of the first of its kind that includes infants and toddlers.
The study was published Wednesday in the journal The Lancet Child & Adolescent Health included 44,000 children in Denmark aged zero to 14 years. Of the children, 11,000 tested positive for COVID-19 between January 2020 and July 2021.
While symptoms associated with long-term COVID are general disorders that children may experience even without COVID – headaches, mood swings, stomach problems and fatigue – the children in the study who previously tested positive for COVID were more likely to experience at least one symptom in two months or more than those children who were never tested positive for COVID.
The study also revealed that one-third of children who tested positive for COVID experienced at least one long-term symptom that was not present before they tested positive.
The most common symptoms varied by age. For children up to 3 years, it was mood swings, rashes and stomach ache. Children aged 4 to 11 years also experienced memory and concentration problems. For the 12-14-year-olds, it was memory and concentration problems, mood swings and fatigue.
Children 3 and under seemed to have the most problems compared to the children who were not diagnosed with COVID-19 – 40% experienced symptoms two months after being tested positive compared to the 27% in the group who did not have COVID -19.
“Our results are consistent with previous studies of long-term COVID and adolescents, which show that although the chances of children experiencing long-term COVID are low, especially compared to the control group, it should be recognized and treated seriously,” said co-author of the study Selina Kikkenborg Berg, professor of cardiology at Rigshospitalet in Copenhagen, Denmark.
It is still unclear how many children have long COVID and for how long because there is not enough research on it in this age group, say some experts.
A study from 2021 suggested that more than half of children between the ages of 6 and 16 had at least one symptom lasting more than four months.
In adults, some research puts the figure around 30% of cases.
There are no specific tests for long-term COVID. It is not clear which children will get it, as it can happen even when a child has a mild case of Covid-19.
In addition to showing scientists characteristics of prolonged COVID in children, the study also showed that even those children who did not receive COVID felt the effects of the pandemic. This group reported slightly more mental and social problems than children who had COVID.
Dr. Michael Absoud, a pediatrician specializing in neurodevelopmental problems who did not work on the study, told the Science Media Center in the UK that he found this fact intriguing.
The most striking result of this study is the higher quality of life and lower anxiety score in older children who tested positive for COVID-19. This further confirms that although children are mercifully resistant to the direct effects of COVID. have been significantly affected by the indirect effects of the pandemic (school closures, repeated quarantines and reduced therapies) and anxiety-provoking media messages, it is likely that society has underestimated the long-term effects of the pandemic outbreak rather than the virus on all children and the urgent need for health and wellness recovery , ”Said Absoud.
“Nevertheless, it is still important to identify the small proportion of children who are taking longer to recover from COVID, while supporting all children with persistent symptoms regardless of the cause,” he added.
Dr. Amy Edwards, a pediatric infectious disease specialist who heads the long COVID clinic at UH Rainbow Babies and Children’s Hospital in Cleveland, did not work on the study, but said the work was important because it is more evidence that some children develop prolonged COVID-19. .
She said she still regularly encounters people who do not believe there is such a thing.
“There’s a debate going on in both the medical world and in society about whether all these children are complaining of headaches and anxiety and stomachs, pain and dizziness about whether it’s COVID or the stress of the pandemic. Yes, the pandemic affected children in a negative way, but then you put COVID on top of that and you see that something is really going on here, ”said Edwards.
Recognizing long-term COVID can be a problem, may encourage more parents to vaccinate their children so they do not get coronavirus in the first place. Studies like this can also encourage parents to be on the lookout for symptoms so they can get the child’s help if they need it.
“It has become clear that this is not an isolated phenomenon. It is emerging in studies in more than one country. It is happening in more children than we might have originally thought,” Edwards said. “We are not talking about small numbers of children, when you think about how many COVID cases there have been. So it’s important to just keep getting the word out there. “