The authors strongly emphasize the limited amount of data. “The available studies do not give a clear definition for the syndrome,” said Curtis. The data was collected using online surveys or telephone interviews. Patients with severe distress might use these tools more than children with mild symptoms. The prevalence of long Covid could be overestimated as a result.
In addition, it is unclear whether the reported symptoms are even due to an infection with the coronavirus – or, for example, the consequences of a lockdown. The authors call for clear control groups for future studies. Long Covid patients would have to be compared with healthy volunteers and children who have other respiratory infections. This is the only way to actually establish a causal relationship.
So should children be vaccinated to protect them from the long-term effects of the disease? “In the debate about the benefits of vaccination, we need to know the risk of long-covid in this age group,” said Curtis. However, the current studies are not yet sufficient for this. Daniel Vilser, senior physician for pediatric and adolescent medicine at Jena University Hospital, sees it similarly.
“The study sums up well what the data are like at the moment,” he says of the review article. “But the data are not yet easy to compare.” Over 200 symptoms are associated with Long Covid. There is a lot of overlap with illnesses that are difficult to grasp – for example with depression and psychosomatic illnesses. The transitions are fluid. “We don’t have a biomarker that could objectively confirm the suspected diagnosis. That is our main problem.” Vilser leads a newly established Long Covid consultation hour.
“We train the children to deal with the disease,” he says. There is no causal treatment. Some children benefit from physiotherapy, occupational therapy or psychotherapy. “But we also issue certificates so that less resilient children only have to go to school for two hours a day, for example.”
Vilser agrees with the authors of the study that the symptoms can also be interpreted as a consequence of the pandemic. “If we look at the damage caused by the lockdown with the damage caused by the virus, the lockdown clearly outweighs the problem,” says Vilser. Since the beginning of the pandemic, the incidence of psychosomatic illnesses in children has risen sharply. “It is wrong that there is no Long-Covid in children. It would be a shame if those affected did not get any help.”
© dpa-infocom, dpa: 210920-99-282860 / 3