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Long COVID Symptoms In Kids: From Mild To Alarming

Fifteen-year-old Eliana Rosario played the flute for her school’s marching band. But in 2021, something bizarre happened to her during practice that the Ohio school’s band director had to phone her mom Jessica, telling the latter that her daughter was on the floor, clutching her chest and unable to move. 

The freshman could not speak or stand, and she was not moving. Jessica recalled rushing to school and seeing her daughter being transported to the ambulance like a dead weight. The paramedics brought her to University Hospitals Elyria Medical Center, according to CNN

Surprisingly, the results of Eliana’s blood tests, toxicology screens, chest X-ray and CT scan turned out to be OK. Unable to explain her strange paralysis, the hospital transferred her to UH Rainbow Babies & Children’s in hopes that experts there could solve the mysterious condition. 

The medical team eventually figured out that Eliana’s chest pain and elevated heart rate could be tied to inflammation caused by COVID-19. The teen and her family caught the coronavirus over Christmas 2020. But that was ten months before the shocking incident. 

At the medical facility, doctors diagnosed Eliana with the long COVID-related condition known as postural orthostatic tachycardia syndrome or POTS, which causes the heart rate to elevate when standing. The elevation may happen suddenly or gradually, as per the National Health Service

Long COVID Symptoms in Children

Eliana’s case is just one of the growing number of children experiencing the effects and drawbacks of long COVID, also known as post-viral COVID-19 or long-haul COVID. Since 2021, scientists have been trying to figure out what causes the condition. They also sought to determine the treatment options for young and adult long COVID sufferers. 

Last June, researchers reported that more than a quarter of kids infected with SARS-CoV-2 develop long-term symptoms. The symptoms were said to last for more than four months. But fast forward to the present, it’s now clear that long COVID in children could persist way beyond just four months after acute illness. 

Per the American Academy of Pediatrics, the persistent or prolonged symptoms in children vary and include fatigue, loss of smell and taste, headache, stomachache, rash, muscle pain, trouble concentrating and circulation problems. 

However, there are more alarming symptoms that the medical community is keeping a close watch on. Take, for instance, Eliana’s case. Dr. Amy Edwards, the associate medical director of pediatric infection control at UH Rainbow Babies & Children’s, said she has been booked solid since early 2021 because of the growing number of long COVID cases. 

“Looking at our first 60 patients that came to our clinic, we found that about 13% of our patients had these functional neurologic deficits,” she told CNN. “In the case of our kids, it most always presents with loss of limb function, an inability to walk or move an arm, something like that.”

Ewards’ clinic is not the only one seeing kids with extreme symptoms. Other facilities across the country are also recording cases of long COVID in children. Eliana had to undergo eight months of physical therapy to return to her normal life. And while the government and public health agencies are advocating for vaccination, experts like Edwards are reminding parents that the best way to protect their kids from long COVID is to avoid catching the virus in the first place.

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