What is 'long COVID'?
Long COVID — also known as “post-COVID syndrome” and “post-acute sequelae of SARS-CoV-2 infection (PASC)”— is the presence of one or more lingering symptoms that remain long after a child or teenager has recovered from COVID-19. Your child doesn’t need to have had initially experienced symptoms of COVID-19 to develop post-COVID symptoms. In fact, many kids with post-COVID symptoms were asymptomatic when they were diagnosed with COVID-19. For reasons that are still unclear, long COVID seems most likely to affect older children (ages 10+), teens, and young adults.
Long COVID is different from multisystem inflammatory syndrome in children (MIS-C), a relatively rare but potentially serious illness that is associated with heart inflammation and other problems.
What are the symptoms of long COVID?
Post-COVID symptoms can vary from child to child but may include:
- joint or muscle pain
- “brain fog” (difficulty with memory and cognition)
- respiratory problems
Fatigue appears to be the most common post-COVID symptom in kids. According to one study, about half of children and teens with a COVID-19 diagnosis had at least one lingering symptom four months later, even if they initially had no symptoms. About a quarter of these patients had at least three of the symptoms listed above.
What causes long COVID?
We don’t yet know why some people with COVID-19 go on to develop long-lasting symptoms.
How is long COVID diagnosed?
We diagnose patients with long COVID if they have had a previous diagnosis of COVID-19 and are experiencing one or more symptoms months later. These patients may have normal results from blood tests, echocardiograms, and tests of lung function, yet continue to experience symptoms.
How is long COVID treated?
The treatment for post-COVID symptoms depends on the specific symptoms a child is experiencing.
How we care for long COVID at Boston Children’s Hospital
At Boston Children’s Hospital, we care for patients with long COVID in our Multidisciplinary Post-COVID Clinic. Formed in March 2021, the clinic offers evaluation and referral to specialty care for kids and teens with post-COVID symptoms. After an initial screening with an infectious disease clinician — often in the form of a virtual visit — we then connect families with the appropriate team of Boston Children’s sub-specialists to treat their symptoms. These sub-specialists may include:
Because many kids experience multiple post-COVID symptoms, this multidisciplinary team approach is key. The clinic relies on ongoing communication to keep all specialists — and the patient’s family — on the same page.
How do I contact the Post-COVID Clinic?
While some families contact the clinic directly, others are referred by their pediatrician or other health care provider. For more information or to make an appointment, please call us at 617-355-6832.