A new study of school-aged children in the UK has shown that median illness duration is longer in children aged 12–17 years than in children aged 5–11 years

Young child temperature taking thermometer

A new study published in The Lancet Child & Adolescent Health examining the duration and symptoms of COVID-19 in school-aged children in the UK has found that the median duration of illness tends to be longer in older children (aged 12–17 years) than in younger children (aged 5–11 years).

In children, COVID-19 is usually asymptomatic or causes only mild symptoms of short duration. However, some children experience prolonged illness and little is known about the prevalence and characteristics of persistent symptoms of COVID-19 in children.

Using data from the COVID symptom study gathered by the Zoe App (Zoe Limited), researchers from King’s College London analysed illness duration and symptom prevalence, duration, and burden in 1734 children with a positive SARS-CoV-2 test result. The most common symptoms were headache (62%) and fatigue (55%); median illness duration was 6 days, and was positively associated with age.

Four percent of the children with confirmed COVID-19 had an illness duration of at least 28 days, and this was more common in older children than in younger children. However, symptom burden in children with persistent symptoms did not increase with time, and most had recovered by day 56. The authors concluded that, while the findings validate the experiences of a minority of children who experience a longer illness duration, most of these children usually recover with time.

The authors of the study state: ‘Our findings emphasise that appropriate resources will be necessary for any child with prolonged illness, whether due to COVID-19 or other illnesses. Our study provides crucial data to inform discussions about the effect and implications of the pandemic on health-care resource allocation.’