How COVID-19 Affects Kids Long Term

May 19, 2021

Clinical Contributors to this Story

Katharine Clouser, M.D. contributes to topics such as Pediatric Hospital Medicine.

As more and more people in the U.S. recover after COVID-19 infection, physicians and researchers have noticed a trend: Some COVID-19 survivors experience long-lasting fatigue, lung problems, joint pain, brain fog and other symptoms.

And it’s not just adults who are experiencing these long-lasting complications. Parents and pediatricians have also noticed these long-term post-COVID symptoms in kids.

“Although kids tend not to be so badly affected by COVID-19 and often have asymptomatic or mild cases, we are seeing kids who have decreased exercise tolerance, joint pain, fatigue, and brain fog after COVID-19 infection,” says Katharine Clouser, M.D., a pediatric hospital medicine specialist at Hackensack Meridian Children’s Health.

Although it is not yet clear how many children in the U.S. have been affected by this “long-COVID” syndrome, studies show that up to 40 percent of children in Italy and approximately 15-20 percent of children in England are experiencing “long-haul” COVID-19 symptoms.

Post-COVID Symptoms in Kids 

Dr. Clouser says you might notice that children with lasting symptoms related to a previous COVID-19 infection may experience the following:

  • a struggle to make it through the day in school
  • exhaustion
  • trouble concentrating
  •  increased difficulty with schoolwork, leading to lower-than-usual grades
  • decreased performance in athletics compared to their pre-COVID level
  • fatigue or breathing problems while participating in sports

“In older kids, you may notice a behavior change or observe that something is just ‘off,’” said Dr. Clouser. “Your child may even say that they just don’t feel right.”

Younger children may show more subtle signs of trouble, such as not participating in everyday activities. For example, you should be concerned if your child, who normally enjoys the playground, now prefers to sit on a bench and watch others.

What to Do if Your Child Shows Signs of PASC Syndrome 

If you observe your child exhibiting “long-haul” COVID symptoms, reach out to your pediatrician.

“It’s important to keep a close eye on your child’s behavior,” says Dr. Clouser. “Ongoing research is taking place to understand how these symptoms could evolve over time and how early intervention could impact recovery.”

If your child didn’t have a known COVID-19 infection, they could still have been infected without showing symptoms — particularly if they had significant exposure to someone who had COVID-19. Your child can get an antibody test to confirm if they had an asymptomatic infection.

“At Hackensack Meridian Children’s Health, we established a dedicated clinic for kids who are experiencing lingering post-COVID symptoms,” says Dr. Clouser. “The clinic combines the expertise of many different specialists, including a pediatrician, cardiologist, pulmonologist and rheumatologist to review any post COVID complications and to work together to develop a treatment plan.”

If you believe that something isn’t right with their child, you shouldn’t give up until you find the answers you need “It can be hard to get someone to believe you, so be persistent,” says Dr. Clouser.

Next Steps & Resources

  • Meet our source: Katharine Clouser, M.D.
  • If your child continues to experience COVID-19 symptoms, even after recovery, consider making an appointment with the Hackensack Meridian Children’s Health – Pediatric COVID-19 Recovery Center, which can be reached by email, or calling 551-996-2911.
  • To make an appointment with a Hackensack Meridian Health doctor near you, call 800-822-8905 or visit our website.

The material provided through HealthU is intended to be used as general information only and should not replace the advice of your physician. Always consult your physician for individual care.