Children hospitalised with Omicron did not have a higher risk of experiencing long-term health issues compared to other infections, finds latest study

Feb 8, 2024

Little child patient with protective face mask lying on bed at hospital

Children hospitalised with initial COVID-19 variant showed more signs of dermatological, fatigue, gastrointestinal, sensory, and sleep issues, as well as behavioural and emotional problems. Children affected by Omicron variant seemed to fare much better in the long-run and did not differ from seasonal viral infections.

By Daniel Munblit

08 February, 2024: In a study published in BMC Medicine, researchers provided additional insights into the long-term effects of COVID-19, often referred to as “Long COVID”, on hospitalised children and young people. The study, conducted in Moscow, Russia, focused on the differences in health consequences between the ‘original variant’ of the virus and the later ‘Omicron variant’.

The study looked at two groups of children under 18 years of age who were hospitalised either because they had COVID-19 or because they had an infection which was not COVID-19. The COVID-19 group included children who were infected when two different types of the virus were spreading: the initial variant (between April and December 2020) and the Omicron type (between January and February 2022). The other group of children with infections other than COVID-19 were in the hospital at the same time as those with the Omicron type.

To understand how these children were doing after they left the hospital, the researchers talked to their parents over the phone using a protocol developed by the International Severe Acute Respiratory and emerging Infection Consortium (ISARIC). The questions asked during these phone calls were specially designed to learn about the long-term effects of COVID-19 on children and young people. This set of questions was created by a large international group of experts who are focused on understanding and fighting infections like COVID-19.

Findings

Children who were hospitalised with the initial variant of COVID-19 were found to have a much higher risk of experiencing long-term health issues, known as Post-COVID-19 Condition, compared to those who had other non-COVID infections. These children and young people faced a range of persistent symptoms, from skin problems to fatigue, stomach issues, and even changes in their behavior and emotions. The study highlighted that many of these children did not fully recover even months after leaving the hospital.

On the other hand, the Omicron variant told a different story. Children affected by this variant seemed to fare much better in the long-run, with their post-infection symptoms not significantly different from those seen in children with common seasonal viruses.

This gives us hope that the Omicron variant, which accounts for most current COVID-19 cases, might be less daunting in its long-term impact on our young ones.

Published by the Global Support Centre Communications Team

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