The Prevalence, Characteristics and Risk Factors of Persistent Symptoms in Non-Hospitalized and Hospitalized Children with SARS-CoV-2 Infection Followed-Up for up to 12 Months: A Prospective, Cohort Study in Rome, Italy
Buonsenso D., Pazukhina E., Gentili C., Vetrugno L., Morello R., Zona M., De Matteis A., D’Ilario F., Lanni R., Rongai T., del Balzo P., Fonte MT., Valente M., De Rose C., Munblit D., Sigfrid L., Valentini P.
Previous studies assessing the prevalence of COVID-19 sequelae in children have included either a small number of children or a short follow-up period, or have only focused on hospitalized children. We investigated the prevalence of persistent symptoms amongst children and assessed the risk factors, including the impact of variants. A prospective cohort study included children (≤18 years old) with PCR-confirmed SARS-CoV-2 infection. The participants were assessed via telephone and face-to-face visits at 1–5, 6–9 and 12 or more months post-SARS-CoV-2 diagnosis using the ISARIC COVID-19 follow-up survey. Of the 679 children enrolled, 51% were female; 488 were infected during the wild virus wave, and 29 were infected with the Alpha, 42 with the Delta and 120 with the Omicron variants. Fatigue (19%), headache (12%), insomnia (7.5%), muscle pain (6.9%) and confusion with concentration issues (6.8%) were the most common persistent symptoms. Families reported an overall improvement over time, with 0.7% of parents interviewed at 12 months or more of the follow-up period reporting a poor recovery. Patients that had not recovered by 6–9 months had a lower probability of recovering during the next follow-up period. Children infected with a variant or the wild virus had an overall similar rate of persistent symptoms (although the pattern of reported symptoms differed significantly) and recovery rates. Conclusions: Recovery rates after SARS-CoV-2 infection improved as time passed from the initial infection, ranging from 4% of children having poor recovery at 1–5 months’ follow-up to 1.3% at 6–9 months and 0.7% at 12 months. The patterns of persistence changed according to the variants involved at the time of infection. This study reinforces that a subgroup of children develop long-lasting persistent symptoms and highlights the need for further studies investigating the reasons behind the development of PCC.