Medical Moment: COVID-19 child long haulers

Published: Jan. 14, 2022 at 7:35 PM EST
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COVID in kids…

In the beginning, the infection looked a whole lot different in children than in adults.

“We were seeing a lot more of the gastrointestinal side effects,” says Katharine Clouser, pediatric specialist at the Hackensack University Medical Center. “They were having a lot of diarrhea, a lot of vomiting, a lot of abdominal pain.”

But with the rise of COVID variants, experts say those under 18 now have symptoms like adults---fever, cough, headaches, difficulty breathing, and extreme fatigue. And up to one in three kids may be having trouble getting back to normal.

“What we’re mainly seeing is kids who used to be really good in school, who are now struggling in school, kids who have trouble sleeping, who can’t stay awake, or that athlete, who’s really having a hard time kind of returning to their level of activity, post the infection,” Clouser says.

Dr. Clouser is among the pediatric specialists who are part of the Hackensack Meridian Children’s Pediatric COVID Recovery Center. Pediatric pulmonologists, cardiologists, neurologists, rehab specialists, and others work together to treat a wide range of symptoms.

“We’re doing things to help them to regain their stamina,” Clouser says. “So, if they’ve got headaches, we may need to put them on migraine medication. If they’re having a hard time getting back to their level of activity, because they’re having a difficult time breathing, we’ll do lung tests, lung function tests, and they may need to go on an inhaler for a period of time.”

Counselors and child life services are also available to patients and families. Experts say they need to address the stressors that come along with recovering from a long illness.

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