Impact of Long Covid on Young People

New findings
Most extensive research yet shows that almost 1 in 7 young people infected with the COVID-19 virus may still have symptoms 15 weeks after infection.

The world’s largest study on long COVID so far – with preprint study led by University College London (UCL) based on data from 3065 people of the ages 11-17 – preliminarily indicates that almost 1 in 7 young people infected with the virus may have symptoms associated with it 15 weeks after infection.

A control group of 3739 people in the same age group without COVID was used to match results during the same time period, with data revealing that an average of 15 weeks after their test, 14% more COVID-19 positive young people in the group had three or more symptoms including headaches and tiredness. Close to 7% had five or more physical symptoms.

Multiple Symptoms Remain

Over 7 months between September and March 2020, researchers said the data suggested between 4000 and potentially 32,000 teenagers who tested positive in England may have had multiple symptoms linked to COVID-19 after 15 weeks. However,  inconsistency in the estimated numbers was correlated to whether teenagers elected to reply to the survey or declined to do so. Authors also highlighted that overall tiredness, and not just as a COVID symptom, is not uncommon in this age group.

Chair of the Health Research Authority and Nuffield professor of child health who led the investigation, Sir Terence Stephenson, commented that raw data indicates that 15 weeks later, twice as many young people who tested positive as those who tested negative had three or five-plus symptoms. Nevertheless, he also added that the numbers were not as bleak as the worst-case scenario in December 2020.

On the positive side regarding mental health and wellbeing, researchers found little difference between those who tested positive or negative. However, a large number of participants in both groups reported being a bit sad, very worried, or unhappy.

Research Into the Impact on Young People Remains Important

Medical Research Council’s Dr Jonathan Pearce commented on the importance of this study in informing the understanding of the long-term impact of COVID-19 on young persons’ physical and mental health by allowing researchers to identify the contribution of COVID-19 to their symptoms via comparing those young people who tested positive and those who tested negative.

He added that we will be better equipped to help affected individuals and to deal with contagious disease risks in future the more we are able to learn about how people react to COVID-19 in both the short and long term.

Dr Kiren Collison, NHS Deputy Medical Director for primary care pointed out that NHS England has established 80 long COVID clinics in every local health area in the country – investing £134 million in the process – within a year of the emergence of COVID-19. He also updated that in July 2021, the NHS further announced 15 new paediatric hubs to help young people facing the condition.

Commenting on the research and findings, vice president for science and research at the Royal College of Paediatrics and Child Health, Prof Nick Bishop said the study emphasised the pressures laid on many young persons during the pandemic.

The study on children and young people with long COVID (referred to CLoCk for short) will follow up data at 6 months, 12 months, and 2 years from the time that participants took an initial PCR test.

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