Experts warn caregivers to look out for long Covid in children

Source: Radio New Zealand

While research suggests it is less likely for a child to get long Covid, there are calls for symptoms to be recognised and for funding into research.

Some say doors have been locked when they arrived to pick up their tests.

By Louise Ternouth of rnz.co.nz

After a family wedding in March this year, Becca's family all caught Covid-19. She has four children, two of them have fully recovered, but her three- and seven-year old are still battling debilitating symptoms almost five months on.

"My seven-year-old especially was really quite fatigued afterwards, the first day of school holidays he spent on the couch not wanting to get up and do anything. My three-year-old girl had the same thing - ongoing fatigue - she had quite an issue with a really chesty cough that lasted for honestly about four months and then both of them had issues with chest pain."

For months, her seven-year old-son could not go back to school. Now, the only solution is half a day at school followed by resting at home.

She said it had been frustrating navigating the children's' symptoms with so much unknown.

"I've taken them to the doctor a few times, to me it didn't feel like anything was investigated much like no one kind of said right obviously this has been going on for quite a while maybe we could try putting some of these things in place to help you, like you know with the half days at school that was me talking to the principal, like that didn't come from anywhere else."

Doctor Anna Brooks is studying long Covid in adults and said while children were less likely to get long Covid, it was definitely happening - but their symptoms may be different.

"We're hearing more about rashes or having a sore tummy, sore legs generally being sort of grumpy, behavioural issues, things that could be quite difficult to to pick up."

That made it extremely difficult for young children to return to usual if it was not picked up by teachers or parents.

School classroom.

Brooks said there should be the same advice for children after having the virus - do not rush back into exercise.

"You can imagine in a small child it would be very difficult if they have brain fog, that cognitive impairment you know how on earth does a little child explain that, with little athletes we want to keep encouraging as much resting as possible."

Doctor Greg Williams is a paediatrician at Starship Hospital.

He was echoing that advice, but said they were seeing children recover from Covid-19 much quicker than adults.

"When you think of Covid and those of our community who are most affected by age and older age is a big risk factor also, the presence of other health conditions particularly effect older people."

Williams said if symptoms were lingering or new symptoms developed four to six weeks after having the virus, that was when an appointment needed to be made.

But he said there was still so much unknown when patients came through their doors.

"I think we're still waiting to find out why, it's going to be really helpful as these studies get released to help us find out more about why some people are affected for a long time after an illness like this."

To date, there are currently no studies looking into long Covid in children in New Zealand.

For families like Becca's some answers could not come soon enough.

"Because this is happening to people now and research obviously takes takes time and if you're only sort of starting research now, it's still going to be a long time before those findings come out and things can be changed and put in place."

A spokesperson from the Ministry of Health said although the Victoria University was studying long Covid, its funding was not specifically focused on children.

An aspect of it focused on the impact on families, which may include children. It also launched a Covid-19 research fund earlier this year and a key theme will be long Covid in adults and children.

rnz.co.nz