Dr Dawn Harper
Long covid, sometimes referred to as post covid condition, is the term used by the National Institute for Health and Care Excellence (NICE) to describe signs and symptoms that develop during or following an infection consistent with covid-19, which continue for more than 12 weeks and cannot be explained by an alternative diagnosis.
We know that young people who are otherwise healthy tend to have milder symptoms with covid-19 than the frail and elderly, but the risk of developing long covid doesn’t seem to correlate with how unwell a person is with the original infection.
According to research published in the British Medical Journal, as many as one in seven children still have symptoms 15 weeks after infection. The good news is that children with long covid seem to recover more quickly than adults with the vast majority being symptom free by 6 months.
Common symptoms associated with long covid include fatigue, sore muscles, shortness of breath, dizziness and brain fog. In younger children hair loss, weight loss and a persistent loss of taste may be a feature.
For young people who were previously active and enjoying sports, the fatigue and muscle pains can mean they have to give up sports they previously enjoyed which can be very frustrating for them and may lead to behavioural changes and low mood.
A small minority of young people may develop heart problems with long covid which can cause palpitations and shortness of breath.
Long covid is usually managed in specialist clinics and young people with the condition may be seen by a variety of specialists including physiotherapists, cardiologists, respiratory specialists, neurologists and psychiatrists.
The good news is that there is good evidence that having two doses of covid vaccination (if the second dose is at least two weeks prior to getting the infection) reduces the risk of long covid by almost half (41%).