Wednesday 08 December 2021

Scores of Dutch children have ‘long Covid’ symptoms

Covid can have long-standing effects on children Photo: Depositphotos.com

Doctors at an Amsterdam children’s hospital believe that there are 300 to 400 children in the Netherlands with long-standing health problems resulting from coronavirus, reports the Parool.

At the Emma Kinderziekenhuis, part of Amsterdam UMC teaching hospital, doctors believe that the disease has had a huge impact on a small group of young people. The hospital, which has set up a special clinic for these children, has observed various issues which seem to have been sparked by the virus.

Some 130 children were diagnosed with MIS-C (Multisystem Inflammatory Syndrome in Children) two to six weeks after contracting coronavirus, and half of them were so severely affected that they needed intensive care in hospital.

The doctors have published a national survey and in-depth study of six children with long-Covid, identifying 89 Dutch children from 2 to 18 suspected of having this condition, with similar complaints to those described in adults. Since the vast majority of children appear to have relatively mild responses to the coronavirus, the study is entitled ‘Pediatric long-COVID: An overlooked phenomenon?’

Paediatrician Giske Biesbroek told the Parool that children seen at the Amsterdam clinic had symptoms such as stomach problems, but also rashes, red eyes and split lips. ‘For a large proportion of the children it also affected the heart,’ said Biesbroek. ‘This is a rare combination of symptoms, and GPs will probably only come across MIS-C once in their lives.”

Other doctors observed symptoms like extreme tiredness, headaches, and mental repercussions, which were probably not helped by the long periods of isolation and lockdown.

Suzanne Terheggen-Lagro, a paediatric lung specialist who helped set up the clinic, said it aimed to get a better picture of why some children were more affected than others and the long-term effects of the illness. ‘In this clinic we are trying to unravel what the problems are and also the causes,’ she reportedly said. ‘One of the hypotheses is that in a proportion of children, parts of the virus remain present, triggering the immune system and making them continuously slightly unwell.’

Some children interviewed by the Parool said that doctors did not recognise what was wrong with them, leading to disastrous circumstances: one collapsed in the street and was rushed to hospital. Others were unable to return to school for more than a few hours a day or take up their sports again.

Neuropsychologist Kim Oostrom added that while these young people had undoubtedly suffered from physical effects, the psychological impact of the coronavirus pandemic and the lockdown had also taken its toll for many. ‘If it seems as though the heart, lungs, brain and the organ control functions are okay, then we need also to dare to tell an honest story [about mental effects],’ she reportedly said.

A spokeswoman for the UMC teaching hospital confirmed that the Dutch team suspects that 300 to 400 children across the country have had long-Covid symptoms, stressing that although it is a small group, this is ‘serious enough’.

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