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What to know about long COVID-19 in kids

A group of boys and girls wearing masks outside of a school.

Nov. 9, 2021—You've likely heard of long COVID-19. That's when some people who get COVID-19 still struggle with ongoing or new symptoms months or more after first being infected. We often hear about long COVID-19 in adults. But it can affect kids of all ages too.

What follows are some key questions and answers about long COVID-19 in children — with information from the American Academy of Pediatrics and the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.

How many kids get long COVID-19?

No one knows how many children who test positive for COVID-19 have long-term symptoms, though it appears to occur less often than in adults. Estimates vary quite a bit. But statistics from the United Kingdom suggest that 12.9% of kids ages 2 to 11 years and 14.5% of those ages 12 to 16 years still have symptoms five weeks after being infected with the coronavirus.

What are the symptoms of long COVID-19?

They differ from person to person. Some of the more common ones include fatigue (feeling very tired), ongoing breathing problems, difficulty sleeping, trouble thinking or concentrating (sometimes called brain fog), cough, joint or muscle pain, mood changes, headaches, fast heartbeats, dizziness, and loss of smell or taste.

Can kids with mild symptoms get long COVID-19?

Yes. Even children who have no symptoms from the coronavirus at first can go on to have long COVID-19.

When should I get help for my child if I think they have long COVID-19?

See a doctor if your child continues to have any symptoms like those above for weeks or months after testing positive for COVID-19.

How is long COVID-19 diagnosed and treated?

There is no specific test for long COVID-19. The diagnosis is based on a child's symptoms. Doctors may run some tests to rule out other possible causes of your child's symptoms. Using a journal to track your child’s long COVID-19 symptoms may help you get the right diagnosis.

There is also no specific treatment for long COVID-19. However, doctors may treat the symptoms, depending on which problems a child is having. Also, if a child's long COVID-19 symptoms make it hard for them to do schoolwork, parents should ask the school for possible accommodations. These might include rest breaks (for fatigue) or extra time for tests (for trouble concentrating).

Will it go away?

Scientists don't yet know how long the symptoms of long COVID-19 may last. Studies happening now may help answer this and other questions about the lingering condition.

Learn more about COVID-19 in our Coronavirus health topic center.

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