Children Are Covid-19 Long-Haulers, Too
Some children infected with Covid-19 experience debilitating symptoms months later. Parents struggle to find out why.
When 12-year-old Samantha got sick back in February 2020, her family believed it was a stomach bug. The healthy Los Angeles student so rarely got ill that her mother, Jamie Coker-Robertson, didn’t think much of her early symptoms. It was clear a virus was spreading through Samantha’s classroom, but most parents shrugged it off as a typical illness any child could expect to pick up at school in the winter months, such as a cold or flu.
Then, students began to “drop like flies,” says Coker-Robertson. “Half of her class was out for a week at a time.”
In previous flu seasons, students would return to school after two to three days. But this time Coker-Robertson noticed that it would take one to two weeks for kids to recover, sometimes longer. “None of them had the same symptoms,” Coker-Robertson says. “Nobody could really figure out what was going on.”
Samantha’s symptoms started with dizziness and lightheadedness. Then she lost her appetite and developed nausea. For almost a week she was bed-ridden. “I just started crying,” Coker-Robertson recalls. “I was like, ‘Is my kid dying?’”
Samantha, who later tested positive for Covid-19, recovered after a couple weeks but continues to have gastrointestinal relapses to this day. Her stomach pain, which includes severe reflux and nausea, hasn’t gone away for 10 months.
One serious condition that seems to affect some children who’ve contracted Covid-19 is multisystem inflammatory syndrome, or MIS-C. Since October, the CDC has reported more than 1,000 confirmed cases of MIS-C, with 20 children having died from it. According to the Mayo Clinic, in children with MIS-C, organs and tissues such as the heart, lungs, digestive system, and brain can become severely inflamed. A study published in JAMA Neurology in July found that out of 27 young patients under the age of 18 who developed MIS-C after Covid-19, 14.8% exhibited new neurological symptoms such as headaches, muscle weakness, and reduced reflexes, among others.