Healthy Kids - Winter 2023



Long COVID in Kids Rady Children’s researchers involved in national study of the illness’ lingering effects

Institutes of Health to better understand the long-term effects of COVID-19. The $1.15 billion Researching COVID to Enhance Recovery (RECOVER) initiative brings together researchers from more than 200 sites throughout the United States. Though the study involves subjects of all ages, Rady Children’s and UC San Diego are evaluating how often long COVID occurs after acute infection in infants, children and young adults. The medical community has learned that recovery from COVID varies from person to person, and more than 200 different symptoms have been reported, including pain, headaches, fatigue, forgetfulness, anxiety, depression and multisystem inflammation. The multi-tier study seeks to better understand “post- acute sequelae of the SARS-CoV-2” infections, or in nonscientific terms, chronic COVID or long COVID. Up to 30 percent of people infected with the coronavirus experience persistent symptoms weeks, even months after they test positive. “We’re interested in people with long COVID-type symptoms, and that could be very broadly defined. We don’t have a specific definition for long COVID, and it can affect any of a number of systems. It can be just ‘I have brain fog’ or ‘I have trouble concentrating,’” says Dr. Tantisira. Researchers from Rady Children’s and UC San Diego are working to find out how COVID affects a young body and why some kids feel sicker, longer. They hope to ultimately enroll around 700 San Diego children from a range of socioeconomic and demographic groups in their portion of the study. Data gathered could be instrumental in identifying who is most at risk for long COVID and how to treat them, says Dr. Tantisira. “It really is to try and better understand the factors that determine COVID susceptibility and particularly long COVID,” he says. “The hope obviously is to learn enough about long COVID in both kids and adults that this will lead to intervention studies, and to be able to identify novel treatments for kids with this problem.”

WHILE VACCINES, BOOSTERS AND TREATMENTS ARE INCREASINGLY AVAILABLE to protect against severe illness from COVID-19, there is still much to learn about the virus. The long-term effects of the coronavirus—especially in children—are ripe for study.

“I think we all went through that phase where people were convinced that kids didn’t even get it. I think COVID has been very underappreciated in kids to begin with,” said Kelan Tantisira, MD, a pediatric pulmonologist and chief of the Division of Respiratory Medicine at Rady Children’s. “It’s not the same disease as in adults and we can’t treat it the same.” Dr. Tantisira has personally seen patients who were healthy pre- pandemic develop persistent shortness of breath, chest pain and a cough, some with symptoms lingering up to two years later.


He and a team of researchers from Rady Children’s and the UC San Diego School of Medicine are now participating in a four-year, nationwide study sponsored by the National


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