As the COVID-19 pandemic continues, more and more people are experiencing long-term effects from the virus, including children. Monika Kalva Varma's 9-year-old son, Akshay Varma, contracted COVID-19 in December 2021 and developed asthma, chronic headaches, heart palpitations, and other symptoms that lasted for months. While long COVID was not initially on their minds, doctors at post-COVID clinics have made strides in the pediatric field. Akshay participated in a study at Children's National Hospital, where researchers have been investigating the long-term effects of COVID-19 in children.
Over the past year, researchers have learned that an estimated 5% to 10% of children and teens develop a wide range of ongoing health problems called post-COVID conditions, or long COVID. The most common long COVID symptoms among children and teens include significant fatigue, shortness of breath, chest pain, muscle aches, headaches, and mental health conditions like anxiety and depression. On average, participants report experiencing about 10 symptoms, with some kids only having a couple of problems and most having multiple problems.
The Biden administration has coordinated with the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services to address long COVID, including additional funding for research and raising awareness about the condition. The federal government launched the Researching COVID to Enhance Recovery (RECOVER) Initiative, which is one of the largest studies examining long COVID, and has also expanded "high-quality care" for people with long COVID, promoted long COVID education and support for health care providers, and raised awareness that long COVID could be a potential cause for disability.
While there is still much to learn about long COVID, researchers and experts are making progress in understanding the condition and addressing its clinical needs. Akshay, who has nearly recovered from his long COVID, hopes that by participating in the study, he can help others going through the same thing and show them that it gets easier.