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Doctors struggle to find answers for children with long-term COVID-19

ALABAMA (WHNT) — Health experts are finding that some children are experiencing debilitating effects from COVID-19 that have persisted for months after initial infection.

Alabama doctors told News 19 they are still struggling to understand what causes long COVID in adults and how to treat it, but experts say the condition in children is even less understood.

Carla Mangrini’s 15-year-old son caught the virus in January. He spent several days at UAB Hospital and after a fierce battle with COVID, he returned home. Mangrini thought he beat COVID.

“My son is home, he’s fine, he’s healthy,” Mangrini told News 19. “He’s never had any health issues. But then we started to understand, I think, little things.

Mangrini said his health had deteriorated. Her very athletic son began to experience brain fog, forgetfulness and confusion.

“Children seem to have persistent symptoms and it has real ramifications,” said Dr. Camden Hebson of UAB Children’s Hospital. “They miss school and they miss their extracurricular activities.”

Hebson has treated children who seemed fine, then suddenly find themselves battling the delayed sequelae of their COVID infection. These are debilitating effects such as headaches, labored breathing and fatigue. The children, he says, have been branded as long-haulers.

“These are previously healthy kids that you couldn’t hold them back,” Hebson continued. “They were going to do up to four things after school. Now they’re really sitting there feeling bad and feeling bad.

Doctors admit they are struggling to find the answers as to why the disease persists and exactly how to treat it.

“We don’t know exactly why, we don’t know exactly how long or if vaccinations prevent this or make it less likely,” added Dr. Wes Stubblefield of the Alabama Department of Public Health (ADPH). “There’s so much we don’t know about it. It is a real thing and it is talked about again and again in the population.

In some cases, doctors say it’s possible that COVID-19 has triggered conditions in children that may not have appeared until now. Commonly referred to as orthostatic intolerance by health experts.

“Orthostatic intolerance is a very common set of symptoms in children in general,” Hebson said. “Some kids have this predisposition to begin with and Covid ends up being the push that produced all these symptoms for them.”

Dr. Hebson says the condition is in children ages 12 to 17. He added that the symptoms are manageable but urges parents to see a doctor and get an update on medical history.


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