Long Covid: Dr Sara Kayat discusses impact on children
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However, it isn’t just adults who are affected by long Covid.
It is estimated over 100,000 children in the UK could have the disease, a number driven by low vaccination rates and mixing in schools.
In common with adults with long Covid, not all children have the same long Covid symptoms; some are more likely to experience certain symptoms than others.
This was discovered by the charity Long Covid Kids UK who conducted a survey of close to 11,000 children between the ages of nought and 14 years old.
For example, children between the ages of nought and three are more likely to experience:
• Mood swings
• Stomach aches
• Loss of appetite.
Meanwhile, children between the ages of four and 11 were more likely to experience mood swings, have trouble concentrating, and rashes.
Moving further up the age ladder, 12- to 14-year-olds had an increased likelihood of experiencing fatigue, mood swings, and trouble remembering or concentrating.
Speaking about the research, Dr Stephen Hawes said: “This study illustrates that all individuals, regardless of age, are at potential risk for Long Covid.
“Children may have different longer-term manifestations of Covid, depending on their developmental stage, and the risk factors for the development of long Covid are less clear.”
Although the study provides an idea as to what symptoms arise in children of certain ages, it admits further research is required in order to ascertain why long Covid is caused in children.
While this answer is further away, scientists believe they could be closer to understanding why it is caused in adults.
Scientists from Harvard Medical School have announced they are looking into whether long Covid is caused by pockets of COVID-19 living in the gut.
Referred to by the scientists as “active viral reservoirs” it is the strongest lead scientists have as to why long Covid symptoms are caused.
Professor David R Walt said: “The half-life of the spike protein in the body is pretty short, so its presence indicates that there must be some kind of active viral reservoir.”
The continued existence of the virus beyond its half-life has led scientists to investigate a phenomenon they call “viral persistence”.
Stanford University’s Ami Bhatt added: “The question is whether or not continued presence of the virus in the gut or elsewhere may kind of tickle the immune system, and cause there to be persistent symptoms.”
Should viral persistence prove key to long Covid, it could lead to the investigation of antiviral drugs as a way to treat the condition.
However, not all scientists are in agreement.
Dr Deepti Gurdasani of Queen Mary University of London said: “The idea of giving people long-term antiviral monotherapy to try and clear the virus is a pretty contentious issue because, given how much adaptation of the virus we see even in short periods of time, the possibility of the virus escaping is extremely high.”
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