There's Encouraging News About Long Covid In Adults And Kids

Two studies suggest long Covid appears to be on the wane – and less common among kids than we thought.

With more than 44 million people in the UK now vaccinated against coronavirus, the likelihood of getting long Covid has waned. According to Office for National Statistics (ONS) data, it is now less prevalent in the population than before.

Researchers have found one in 40 people with Covid symptoms lasting at least three months. In April, ONS reports put that figure at one in every 10.

In the most comprehensive data collection by the ONS to date, which included 50,000 people, analysis shows long Covid may be less common than previously thought.

This follows research published earlier this year that suggests being double-jabbed almost halves the likelihood of long Covid in adults who get coronavirus.

Researchers at King’s College London said that being admitted to hospital with the virus was 73% less likely, and the chances of severe symptoms were reduced by almost a third (31%) in the fully vaccinated.

However, with people still reporting an array of symptoms, long Covid is still not fully understood and has no universal definition.

Long Covid might be less common than feared.
PixelsEffect via Getty Images
Long Covid might be less common than feared.

The ONS asked people who had tested positive for Covid and those who had not, whether they had the following symptoms:

  • fever

  • headache

  • muscle ache

  • weakness

  • tiredness

  • nausea

  • abdominal pain

  • diarrhoea

  • sore throat

  • cough

  • shortness of breath

  • loss of taste

  • loss of smell

Of the people in the study, approximately 3% who had tested positive had at least one of the above symptoms within at least three months of contracting the virus.

The figure was 0.5% for people who had not tested positive, meaning one in every 40 infected people had Covid symptoms last three months or longer.

While the probability of getting long Covid might be lower than feared, there has been plenty of attention paid to the children who have been known to get it.

Crucially, the length of time it affects kids and younger people is less than adults. Long Covid symptoms rarely persist beyond 12 weeks in children and adolescents unlike adults, separate research now suggests.

The new study, published in the Paediatric Infectious Disease Journal, found that existing studies on the condition in children and adolescents have major limitations.

Some do not show a difference in symptoms between those who have been infected with the virus and those who have not.

It comes as research from the Murdoch Children’s Research Institute (MCRI) in Australia found that after 10 months in circulation, the Delta variant had not caused more serious disease in children than previous variants and most cases remained asymptomatic or mild.

It also found children and adolescents with pre-existing health conditions including obesity, chronic kidney disease, cardiovascular disease and immune disorders have a 25-fold greater risk of severe Covid-19.

A recent systematic review reported severe Covid-19 occurred in 5.1% of children and adolescents with pre-existing conditions and in 0.2% without.

MCRI Professor Nigel Curtis said while children with Sars-CoV-2 infection are usually asymptomatic or have mild disease with low rates of hospital admissions, the risk and features of long Covid were poorly understood.

He said: “Current studies lack a clear case definition and age-related data, have variable follow-up times, and rely on self- or parent-reported symptoms without lab confirmation.

“Another significant problem is that many studies have low response rates meaning they might overestimate the risk of long Covid.”

The MCRI-led review analysed 14 international studies involving 19,426 children and adolescents that reported persistent symptoms following Covid-19.
The most common symptoms reported four to 12 weeks after acute infection were headache, fatigue, sleep disturbance, concentration difficulties and abdominal pain.

Prof Curtis said it was reassuring there was little evidence symptoms persisted longer than 12 weeks, suggesting long Covid might be less of a concern in children and adolescents than in adults.

But he said further studies were urgently needed to inform policy decisions on coronavirus vaccines for children and adolescents.