In the UK there are around two million people who currently live with the chronic condition known as long Covid. At the same time, close to 100,000
Doctor Binita Kane is not just a member of SAGE, but also an expert in respiratory illnesses. She is an advocate for charity Long Covid Kids, which specialises in helping children with the condition, children such as Kane’s daughter.
Having an ill child can rock a family; it is one of the hardest things any human can face. This is something all the more difficult when the condition is so new and the consequences so immense.
Although 100,000 may seem like a small number in the grand scheme of things, for those families it is everything. It’s also important to remember that the children who make up this statistic might lead handicapped lives.
These children, who were completely defenceless against the virus, have experienced multiple reinfections and almost no vaccinations; a perfect storm for long Covid to spread.
Express.co.uk has been speaking to Doctor Kane about the long Covid symptoms to look out for in children.
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On symptoms she said: “When you look at symptoms children and adults present with, broadly it’s quite similar with common symptoms being dizziness, headaches, fatigue, chest pain and breathlessness.
“I think one of the key differences that we are seeing in children is the neuropsychiatric type symptoms which can be a little bit different, and I wonder if that’s due to children’s developing brains, so things like tics, seizures and sudden onset behavioural change.
“This is something we see less in adults who report more memory/concentration problems and acutely worsening mental health.”
While these symptoms are part of the unfolding web of long Covid, they aren’t new in the scientific community as Doctor Kane explained: “We don’t know but these symptoms are not new in terms of post-viral illnesses.
“There is a condition called PANS (Paediatric Acute Onset Neuropsychiatric Syndrome) which is well described with other infections prior to the pandemic. This is under-recognised, underrated and understudied, so we’re not exactly sure of the long-term effects or outcomes.”
As well as increasing the risk of neuropsychiatric conditions, long Covid could also increase the risk of cardiovascular issues in children. In fact, it already is.
Doctor Kane said: “There’s evidence from one study that even children who had recovered from Covid had persistent defects in their lungs, caused by abnormal clots blocking oxygen from getting into the bloodstream.
“They looked at 53 children, with nine healthy children who’d never had Covid and half of the kids out of the 50 had had covid and recovered, the other half had Covid and gone on to develop long Covid.
“What they found was that the lung defects looked worse in the long Covid kids, but there were still significant abnormal findings in the kids that had recovered.” The link to the study Doctor Kane mentions can be found here.
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As a result of these tests, one of the worries of those in the health community is that long Covid will have a long term impact not just on the children, but on the health service as a whole.
With numerous studies showing that Covid, let alone long Covid, increases the risk of heart problems even in those who have recovered, there are questions over whether the pandemic will ever be “over” as former Health Secretary Matt Hancock said in 2021.
On the studies, Doctor Kane commented: “There’s absolutely no good news coming out of the research studies about how this might impact the population in the future.”
If new treatments aren’t found and developed soon enough, for some children their illness will not be over for some time.
Meanwhile, charities such as Long Covid Kids have been founded as a way to help parents and their children manage the illness.
They provide a support service and aim to raise awareness and support for research into long Covid in children, so that those afflicted can look forward to a future when their symptoms may be alleviated.
Long Covid Kids says: “Our mission is to fund and participate in global research to investigate health implications, improve the lived experience and enable recovery.
“We welcome invitations to co-produce quality research where patients are involved from design concept to publication and adhere to the four HRA principles for meaningful involvement of patients and the public in health and social care research.”