New study could help children and young people suffering from long Covid

Long Covid is proving to be a widespread and persistent problem for sufferers. Now a new study from King’s College London reveals that long Covid isn’t just a condition of adults but can also affect children and young people. And it’s not that rare.

Up to one in seven of them may still have symptoms 15 weeks later. This is the conclusion of the CLoCk study, the world’s largest on long Covid in children, led by Public Health England researchers in collaboration with 11 university centres, across multiple sites in the UK.

Between January and March, researchers surveyed 3,065 11 to 17-year-olds in England who had positive PCR tests as well as a matched control group of 3,739 11 to 17-year-olds who tested negative.

When surveyed at an average of 15 weeks after their test, 14% more young people in the positive test group had three or more symptoms of ill health, including unusual tiredness and headaches, than those in the negative test group. In addition 7% (one in 14) had five or more symptoms.

“This research gives us a clearer picture of the type and number of persistent symptoms reported in children after SARS-CoV-2”, said Trudie Chalder, King’s Professor of Cognitive Behavioural Psychotherapy and CLoCK study co-investigator.

The overall data collected during the seven months between September and March from teenagers who tested positive and may have had three or more symptoms 15 weeks after Covid, could be at least 4000 (best case scenario) and possibly as high as 32000 (worst case.)

This would mean during those seven months, 4,273 11 to 17-year-olds would still have three or more physical symptoms 15 weeks post-test and 2,137 would have five or more physical symptoms 15 weeks post-test.

Lead author Professor Sir Terence Stephenson (UCL Great Ormond Street Institute of Child Health) said: “There is consistent evidence that some teenagers will have persisting symptoms after testing positive for SARS-CoV-2.

“Our study supports this, with headaches and unusual tiredness the most common complaints.”

And those who had a positive test twice are as likely to have three or more symptoms 15 weeks later.

Dr Jonathan Pearce, Director of Covid-19 Response, UKRI’s Medical Research Council said: “This study is very important as it will inform our understanding of the long-term impacts of Covid-19 on the physical and mental health of children and young people.

“Comparing children who tested positive for SARS-CoV-2 with children who did not allows researchers to identify the contribution of Covid-19 to their symptoms.”

And to help them.