A large UK study has found that most children who get Covid-19 recover within a week and are unlikely to suffer long-lasting Covid symptoms.
According to the researchers in the Lancet Child and Adolescent Health, some 4.4% of 1,734 children with symptomatic Covid in the study experienced symptoms for longer than four weeks, most often fatigue, headaches and loss of smell.
The research team followed 250,000 children in the UK, between five and 17 years old, between September of last year and February 22, Bloomberg reported.
"This data is reassuring to families, to parents, to teachers and to children who are affected," said Emma Duncan, a professor of clinical endocrinology from King's College London and lead author of the study. "Most children will get better with time."
The results come amid a debate about how broadly to vaccinate teenagers. Thus far, UK authorities have said they'll target only 12- to 17-year-olds with underlying health conditions for a Covid shot. Germany, in contrast, is seeking to give its slowing inoculation drive a boost by offering shots to all teenagers.
The study also took into account relapsing or remitting symptoms in children, allowing for periods of up to a week of being completely healthy.
According to the study, children with Covid-19 typically recovered within a week and had approximately three symptoms, with the average length of illness lasting six days.
The study noted that more than 98 per cent of all symptomatic children recovered by eight weeks.
Researchers said the findings confirm that Covid-19 "tends to manifest as a mild illness in children and that they usually recover quickly."
However, the study reported that some children experienced an average of two persistent symptoms beyond four weeks with the most common symptom being fatigue (84 per cent).
The study reported that other common symptoms of long-COVID in children were headache and loss of smell. Researchers noted that headaches were more common early in the illness while loss of smell tended to occur later and persisted longer.
The study found that older children were typically sick with Covid-19 for longer than primary school children. The average illness duration was seven days in children aged 12-17 compared to five days in children between the ages of five and 11.
Researchers reported that older children were more likely to have symptoms after four weeks, but there was "no difference" in the age groups of children who still had symptoms after eight weeks.
In addition, the researchers assessed the children who tested negative for Covid-19 who may have had other respiratory illnesses, such as colds and flu.
To do this, researchers randomly selected a group of age-matched and gender-matched children with symptoms reported through the app who were tested at the same time as the positive children.
The study found that children with Covid-19 were sick for longer than children with other illnesses who tested negative for the virus.
However, researchers reported that a "small number" of children with other illnesses tended to have more symptoms than those who were ill with Covid-19 after four weeks.
Dr Michael Absoud, a lecturer at King's College London and senior author of the study, said the new data shows that children with persistent symptoms of any illness need "timely multidisciplinary care linked with education to support their recovery."
"Our data highlight that other illnesses, such as colds and flu, can also have prolonged symptoms in children and it is important to consider this when planning for paediatric health services during the pandemic and beyond," Absoud said in the release.
The analysis was done before the fast-spreading delta variant had become dominant in the UK, though the research team said data pertaining to delta in children has so far matched what was seen with earlier variants.