One in 7 children in Spain presents symptoms of Covid at 12 weeks

This work, which investigated for the first time the incidence of post-Covid syndrome in Spanish minors, detected that up to one in seven boys and girls positive for SARS-CoV-2 (14.6%) continued to have some symptom after more than 12 weeks from diagnosis, to which must be added another 18.6% who presented symptomatology 4 to 12 weeks after infection.

Children tend to have a relatively mild and less severe course of Covid-19 than adults and are less likely to require hospitalization. However, a small percentage experience severe symptoms during the acute phase, mainly pneumonia, but also the multisystem inflammatory syndrome in children, which in many cases leads to admission to the pediatric intensive care unit.

After acute infection by SARS-CoV-2, the symptoms can be prolonged and, in this sense, the WHO has identified as post-Covid syndrome those cases in which the symptoms lasted more than 12 weeks and were not explained by a diagnosis alternative.

“In children, there is not much data on the prevalence of post-Covid syndrome and its characteristics,” says Cristina Calvo, a researcher at CIBERINFEC, at the Hospital Universitario La Paz and IdiPaz, and one of the coordinators of this work. Therefore, the objective of this research was to determine the prevalence of prolonged symptoms after acute Covid-19, at 4-12 weeks and after more than 12 weeks, in Spanish boys and girls with a confirmed SARS-CoV infection. 2, as well as to describe the clinical characteristics that they presented and to identify possible risk factors in our population.

For this, cases were analyzed from a total of 451 under 18 years diagnosed with symptomatic Covid-19 between March 14 and December 31, 2020 who were treated in three centers in Madrid: La Paz, Niño Jesús and Severo Ochoa university hospitals. Of them, the majority (82.0%) had mild infections that required outpatient care and 5.1% were admitted to the pediatric intensive care unit. The study also included a control group of 98 boys and girls treated for other pathologies. Data on the persistence of symptoms were obtained through telephone interviews, which included questionnaires designed specifically for this study.

We found that “a worrying percentage of the children had prolonged symptoms after Covid-19,” Cristina Calvo underlines. Thus, 18.4% had symptoms that lasted from 4 to 12 weeks, and there was 14.6% who were symptomatic for more than 12 weeks. “These are very high figures and a cause for concern, especially considering that up to 8.2% of the children had 2 or more symptoms after more than 12 weeks,” says the researcher.

Among the symptoms that were significantly associated with post-Covid were recurring headaches, loss of smell and taste, muscle pain, chronic fatigue, concentration difficulties, insomnia, apathy or sadness, anxiety, palpitations and dizziness. In addition, 5.9% of the cases reported suffering other effects such as hair loss, memory loss or skin lesions.

Post-Covid-19 symptoms that persisted for more than 12 weeks were more common in children older than 5 years, for those younger than those who had to be hospitalized or admitted to pediatric intensive care units, and for those with family members who also presented post-Covid syndrome. “The disease severity it may have been an important risk factor, and genetic factors could also play a role in the persistence of symptoms after Covid-19,” says Calvo.

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