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‘It feels a little scary, like I can’t breathe’: Children are also suffering from ‘long Covid’

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Some children are developing ‘long Covid’, a mysterious condition where a person feels symptoms of the virus long after recovery.

The condition has baffled experts, usually appearing in healthier children who do not suffer from severe cases of the virus.

Symptoms can be wide ranging, from anosmia – lost of taste and smell – to suffering cognitive issues such as ‘brain fog’, just like they are in adults.

Experts are not quite sure why the condition develops, and how to effectively treat it. 

Adam Estrada (pictured) begin to experience severe symptoms of long Covid after a bout with the virus that left his hospitalized. He has experienced hair loss and lost the ability to stand on his own at some points

Adam Estrada (pictured) begin to experience severe symptoms of long Covid after a bout with the virus that left his hospitalized. He has experienced hair loss and lost the ability to stand on his own at some points

Estrada was treated by Dr Katharine Clouser in New Jersey at one of the state's only pediatric long Covid treatment clinics. Pictued: Estrada with his mother during a CBS News interview

Estrada was treated by Dr Katharine Clouser in New Jersey at one of the state’s only pediatric long Covid treatment clinics. Pictued: Estrada with his mother during a CBS News interview

Dr Katharine Clouser is a hospital pediatrician from Hackensack, New Jersey, and her team at Hackensack Meridian Health are operating one of the few pediatric Covid recovery centers in the state.

Clouser told DailyMail.com she took interest in pediatric long Covid cases after families of patients she had treated at the hospital were following up with her, mentioning their child was still feeling symptoms after recovery.

‘As I started to get more and more calls in the late winter [and] early spring … we thought that it’s important that these kids have a place to go as we’re learning more about [the condition],’ she told DailyMail.com.

One of those children was Aaron Estrada, 4, who contracted the virus a year ago.

He was hospitalized, and after his bout with the virus developed multi-system inflammatory syndrome.

Estrada’s condition got so bad that he ended up losing his hair and could not stand on his own for a month.

While Estrada is a more severe case than what many other children experience, solving cases like his has become a challenge for doctors. 

She said that she believes somewhere between ten to 15 percent of children who contract the virus will develop long Covid.

Around half of children who contract Covid will be asymptomatic, and when testing supplies were limited early in the pandemic, many children were never even tested for the virus.

Interestingly, children who suffer mild cases of the virus are more likely to develop long Covid than ones with severe cases.

‘The kids who have more severe Covid, I’m actually not really seeing so much of my clinic,’ Clouser said.

She said many children who did not even know they had Covid will suddenly start reporting symptoms such as joint pain, fatigue, headaches or more.

Then, the child will receive an antibody test and find that they previously had suffered a mild or asymptomatic Covid infection.

Why exactly this is happening can not be determined, though she has a few potential explanations.

First, it may be inflammation caused by an immune response to the virus.

Inflammation can occur throughout the body, and have many different effects on a person, from minor fatigue to severe psychiatric symptoms.

Clouser also believes there is a mental toll the virus takes on a child that could be affecting them as well.

Many children who contract Covid suffer from anxiety while they are sick, and for young children who have never experienced that kind of trauma before, it could do damage to their psychological health. 

‘Kids typically bounce back from illnesses really well – [they] get the flu, [they] play soccer next week,’ she said.

‘For some reason, this one is really having a bad effect on the body. It’s really affecting many body cells, the lungs, the muscles, the stomach, everything. 

‘And so I see kids are just becoming deconditioned. They spend so much time in bed, they spend so much time in a hospital bed and they’ve never been out of school before. 

‘They’ve never been anxious about school before and all of a sudden, now they are and they’re just having a harder time bouncing back.’

She says that not all symptoms can be attributed to mental issues, though, as scans have found the virus doing severe damage to the lungs and hearts of some children.

Madison Foor (pictured), 14, was a competitive dance before she contracted Covid in January. She now experience frequent shortness of breathe, requires use of an inhaler and can not get through a dance class without losing her breath ten months after her infection

Madison Foor (pictured), 14, was a competitive dance before she contracted Covid in January. She now experience frequent shortness of breathe, requires use of an inhaler and can not get through a dance class without losing her breath ten months after her infection

One of those children is 14-year old Madison Foor, who contracted Covid in January.

Foor was previously a competitive dancer, but now requires the use of an inhaler every day and can not complete a dance class without regular breaks.

Now ten months removed from her Covid diagnosis, she is still suffering from a virus that has long left her body.

‘It feels a little scary, like I can’t breathe,’ she told CBS News

‘My heart starts pumping really fast, and my lungs, it’s just like constant need for air.’ 

Foor is receiving treatment at the University of Michigan’s Pediatric Post-Covid Syndrome Clinic in Ann Arbor, another clinic opened recently in an effort to study and treat pediatric long Covid patients.

Treating long Covid is not quite simple, though.

Because the condition can affect a body in such a vast amount of ways, there is no one-size-fits-all treatment available for it.

‘If they have lung [issues], meaning there’s some inflammation in their lungs or they’re having a little bit of shortness of breath, or a little bit of difficulty breathing, [we] will give them inhalers things that we use in conditions like asthma,’ Clouser told the DailyMail.com

‘Steroids are a mainstay of acute COVID treatment and sometimes people just need [steroids] a little bit longer course.

‘And then we also use other … kinds of disciplines as well. I think talk therapy has been really helpful.’ 

Clouser calls pediatric long Covid an ’emerging’ issue around the U.S., and urges parents to bring their child to a physician in case they begin to experience sudden symptoms.

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