With pupils across the UK returning to schools, scientists have warned that long Covid symptoms in children may be a cause for concern.
Experts have warned that, though data is not clear-cut, emerging evidence of lasting coronavirus symptoms in children should not be ignored, especially given that there are no vaccine plans in place for younger age groups.
Concerns have emerged out of recently published Office for National Statistics (ONS) data, which suggests that 13 per cent of children under 11 and 15 per cent of children aged 12 to 16 reported at least one symptom five weeks after testing positive for coronavirus.
These symptoms have reportedly ranged from the common post-viral fatigue to headaches, skin lesions and seizures, with slightly more children in older age groups (12 to 16) reporting lasting symptoms in the ONS survey.
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The samples were taken from random households, meaning positive cases didn't depend on having had symptoms and being tested.
One of the key question marks, in fact, hangs over whether children with mild or completely asymptomatic cases of the virus may still be suffering from long Covid regardless.
A cause for concern?
Danny Altmann, professor of immunology at Imperial College London, told the Guardian: "The answer is that it certainly can, and the long Covid support groups contain a not insignificant number of children and teens."
Professor Christina Pagel, a member of the Independent Sage committee and director of clinical operational research at University College London said in a Twitter post that the emerging evidence around long Covid in children shouldn't be ignored, warning that the "consequences of being wrong about long Covid in kids are huge if we let Covid spread through kids".
However, critics of the recent ONS survey say that there is no comparative group, meaning that the data is not reliable because coughs and fevers are common in childhood.
“I don’t know that that is a very accurate way of gathering data … I don’t think that’s likely to be truly reflective of how many young people are really experiencing persistent symptoms,” Dr Liz Whittaker, senior clinical lecturer in paediatric infectious diseases and immunology at Imperial College London said.
“I’m talking to paediatricians who are already getting referrals - the numbers aren’t huge … I don’t think there’s a huge cause for concern.
“The good news is that the majority of young people who get chronic fatigue tend to get better with appropriate support.”