Long-term effects of COVID-19 infection are affecting the health of some children and teens, as well as adults. While most children with COVID-19 infection have mild symptoms or have no symptoms at all, the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention says anyone who has had COVID-19 â€• even if the illness was mild or if they had no symptoms â€• can have long-term effects.
“This concept of long COVID-19, or long-haulers, refers to a subgroup of people who get COVID-19 infection. Instead of recovering within a couple of weeks of their infection, they go on to have symptoms, usually for weeks or months afterward,” says Dr. Nipunie Rajapakse, a pediatric infectious diseases physician at Mayo Clinic.
“This doesn’t happen to everyone,” explains Dr. Rajapakse. “But it certainly is now well-described in some people who develop this infection. And we’re trying to understand why it happens to some people and not to everyone. It’s certainly well-described in adults, and we are now hearing of cases in kids. The teenage age group seems to be the most significantly impacted.”
Journalists: Broadcast-quality sound bites with Dr. Rajapakse are available in the downloads at the end of the post. Please courtesy: “Nipunie Rajapakse, M.D./IPediatric Infectious Diseases/Mayo Clinic.”
Several studies underway. For instance, the National Institutes of Health is studying COVID-19 in children, including long-term outcomes for kids who have become infected with the virus.
“A lot of efforts have gone into place to first help identify these patients and figure out the best way we can help them,” says Dr. Rajapakse. “The patients who are having these symptoms seem to be having a lot of difficulty getting back to their previous level of functioning â€” returning to school, returning to work, returning to sports that they may have participated in.”
“One of the really challenging things about long COVID-19 is it’s not one condition or one set of symptoms,” says Dr. Rajapakse. “People are describing a variety of different symptoms, like profound fatigue, muscle aches, pains, sore throat, fevers, breathing difficulties, and each person almost has a unique kind of constellation of these symptoms. These symptoms can go on for varying periods of time and be of varying severity.”
Long COVID-19 symptoms may include:
- Tiredness or fatigue.
- Difficulty thinking or concentrating (sometimes referred to as â€œbrain fogâ€�).
- Loss of smell or taste.
- Dizziness on standing.
It’s not yet known why or how often some people experience long-haul COVID-19 symptoms. These symptoms can also overlap with symptoms of many other chronic medical conditions, making it important that a thorough medical evaluation is performed to ensure there is not another medical issue causing the symptoms.
“There are questions as to whether these symptoms are arising because of the impact of the virus itself on certain organ systems, or is this more of an impact of your immune system and how it responded to the infection? There are different possibilities for what could be causing this,” says Dr. Rajapakse. “But I think the initial focus has been helping to identify these patients, getting them to medical care that can help them, and trying to understand what the underlying issue is here that’s driving this.”
- Mayo Clinic Q&A podcast: â€œBrain fogâ€� is a lingering condition for many COVID-19 long-haulers.
- Long-term symptoms, complications of COVID-19.
- What to know about youth summer camps during COVID-19.
For the safety of its patients, staff and visitors, Mayo Clinic has strict masking policies in place. Anyone shown without a mask was either recorded prior to COVID-19 or recorded in a nonpatient care area where social distancing and other safety protocols were followed.
Information in this post was accurate at the time of its posting. Due to the fluid nature of the COVID-19 pandemic, scientific understanding, along with guidelines and recommendations, may have changed since the original publication date.
Learn more about:Â Tracking COVID-19 and COVID-19 trends.