COVID-19 in children occurs mostly for a short duration, finds study

Heatlh staff pacifying a boy before conducting a rapid test for coronavirus at a health centre in Visakhapatnam.   | Photo Credit: K.R. Deepak

Most children who develop symptoms of COVID-19 get better after six days and the number who experience symptoms beyond four weeks is low, according to a new study conducted in the U.K. and published on Tuesday in The Lancet Child and Adolescent Health.

The study was carried out by researchers from King’s College, London; University College, London; Newcastle University; and the London School of Hygiene and Tropical Medicine, among others. The researchers used data collected through a mobile application, which includes information from more than 2,50,000 U.K. children aged five to 17 years. The team focused on 1,734 children whose reports were collected between September 1, 2020 and February 22, 2021.

The study found that most children were ill for an average of six days. The most common symptoms were headache (62.2%) and fatigue (55%).

Most children recovered within four weeks, with a minority (4.4% or 77 out of 1,734) experiencing symptoms after a month.

Those who took longer than a month to recover showed up to six symptoms during the first week of illness. The median symptom burden in these children was six symptoms during the first week of illness. However, after day 28, the median symptom burden was low, at two symptoms. The most common symptoms experienced by these 77 children over their entire illness were fatigue, headache, loss of smell and sore throat. However, headache was more common early in illness, while loss of sense of smell tended to occur later and to persist longer.

Of the 1,379 children who developed symptoms at least two months before the end of the study period, fewer than 2% experienced symptoms for longer than eight weeks (1.8%, 25/1,379).

Overall, older children took slightly longer to recover — with an average illness duration of seven days in children aged 12 to 17 years versus five days in children aged 5 to 11 years. Older children were also more likely to have symptoms after four weeks than younger children (5.1% of children aged 12 to 17 years versus 3.1% aged 5 to 11 years), but there was no difference in the numbers of children who still had symptoms after eight weeks (2% versus 1.3%).

The researchers also assessed the children who tested negative for COVID-19 and who may have had other childhood illnesses, such as colds and flu, and found that children with COVID-19 were ill for longer compared to children with other illnesses — six days’ illness with COVID-19 versus three days with other illnesses — and were more likely to be ill for more than four weeks. However, at four weeks, the small number of children with other illnesses tended to have more symptoms than those who were ill with COVID-19.

“Our data highlight that other illnesses, such as colds and flu, can also have prolonged symptoms in children and it is important to consider this when planning for paediatric health services during the pandemic and beyond,” said Dr. Michael Absoud, a senior author of the study, and Consultant and Senior Lecturer at King’s College, London

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Printable version | Sep 25, 2021 2:54:37 PM |

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