newsGP - Long-term risk of COVID similar for children and adults: Study

newsGP – Long-term risk of COVID similar for children and adults: Study


With Australia in the midst of a new wave of infections, research has revealed the extent of post-COVID morbidity in children and adolescents.

Common post-COVID symptoms noted in the study include malaise, fatigue, cough, chest pain, headache, anxiety, abdominal pain and depression.

The research, published in PLOS Medicineshows that children, adolescents and adults are diagnosed with higher rates of new physical and mental health problems in the months after infection with COVID.

Overall, children and adolescents with COVID were 30% more likely to have documented health problems within three months of infection. Symptoms included malaise, fatigue, cough, chest pain, headache, anxiety, abdominal pain and depression.

In the same period after diagnosis, adults with COVID were 33% more likely to have health problems with symptoms including shortness of breath, chest pain, hair loss, fatigue, headaches, and smell/taste disturbances.

RACGP Expert Committee – Member Quality Care, said Dr. Magdalena Simonis newsGP this is important research.

“We’re seeing more patients with long-term illness with COVID, and it can manifest in different ways,” she said.

Consistent with previous studies, the German researchers observed that the rate of long-term sequelae in children and adolescents with COVID was generally lower than in adults and appeared to be less pronounced in absolute terms.

However, with high rates of infection and more than 80% of the population contracting the virus, the authors emphasize that post-COVID syndromes cannot be ruled out in children and adolescents.

Dr. Simonis says common symptoms she sees in prolonged COVID include atypical chest pains, palpitations, irregular heart rhythms, brain fog, inability to feel refreshed after rest, and decreased exercise tolerance.

Another common symptom is fatigue, which can be difficult to identify in children.

“The problem is that they can’t describe their symptoms like adults, so you’ll probably never get an accurate picture of what they’re going through,” Dr. Simonis said.

“They don’t associate less well-defined symptoms with what’s going on in their bodies, so something diffuse like fatigue can be harder to pinpoint.”

German researchers used data covering nearly half of the population and for the entire years 2019 and 2020, comparing PCR-positive COVID patients with controls and the incidence of pre-specified diagnoses entered in medical records at least three months after infection.

They concluded that a diagnosis of COVID was associated with higher long-term demand for health services, as reflected in outpatient and inpatient diagnoses more than three months after confirmed infection.

And although children and adolescents appear to be less affected than adults, the findings are statistically significant for all age groups.

REC – Member QC Associate Professor Paresh Dawda said newsGP ongoing research is needed.

“We have to be open to the long-term consequences of COVID and what they may or may not be,” he said.

“We need to respond to patients as they present to us, but more importantly, we need to have a learning system where we gather data and information to be able to generate meaningful insights.”

Meanwhile, in the Australian context in 2022, Dr Simonis said there was a high burden of other respiratory viruses that could exacerbate long-term symptoms of COVID.

“There’s still a lot of virus circulating,” she said. “Sometimes you swab for COVID, but they have another virus like RSV or parainfluenza, and sometimes when you do a PCR respiratory swab, you find they have COVID and something else.

“The next thing we see is [that] they used to have COVID, but now we’re seeing another virus and it can be hard to figure out what’s what.

“With the change from blocking to open mixing, we may see more children succumbing to a range of different viruses, and that can skew the picture because we know which virus causes which persistent symptom.”

However, Dr Simonis says the prolonged COVID provides an opportunity for GPs to do what they do best.

“We know that COVID is different from other diseases – it’s not like the common cold,” she said.

“We know it has a prothrombotic element and can cause microvascular disease, and as a result the recovery time can be different than your usual cold.

“I offer them comprehensive care. It’s an opportunity to talk about lifestyle and recovery.

“We don’t use that word much anymore. Previously, for some conditions we expected a recovery period that could be weeks or months. COVID has taught us that there is a recovery period, but that doesn’t mean it won’t get better.

“Patients need to turn to their GP for an optimistic and holistic approach to their treatment. I remain an optimist.”

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