BACKGROUND: Most children recover quickly after coronavirus disease 2019 (COVID-19), but some may have ongoing symptoms. Follow-up studies have been limited by small sample sizes and lack of appropriate controls. METHODS: We used national testing data to identify children aged 2-16 years with a SARS-CoV-2 PCR test during 1-7 January 2021 and randomly selected 1500 PCR-positive cases and 1500 matched PCR-negative controls. Parents were asked to complete a questionnaire about the acute illness and prespecified neurological, dermatological, sensory, respiratory, cardiovascular, gastrointestinal, mental health (including emotional and behavioral well-being), and other symptoms experienced ≥5 times at 1 month after the PCR test. RESULTS: Overall, 35.0% (859/2456) completed the questionnaire, including 38.0% (472/1242) of cases and 32% (387/1214) of controls, of whom 68% (320/472) and 40% (154/387) were symptomatic, respectively. The most prevalent acute symptoms were cough (249/859, 29.0%), fever (236/859, 27.5%), headache (236/859, 27.4%), and fatigue (231/859, 26.9%). One month later, 21/320 (6.7%) of symptomatic cases and 6/154 (4.2%) of symptomatic controls (P = .24) experienced ongoing symptoms. Of the 65 ongoing symptoms solicited, 3 clusters were significantly (P < .05) more common, albeit at low prevalence, among symptomatic cases (3-7%) than symptomatic controls (0-3%): neurological, sensory, and emotional and behavioral well-being. Mental health symptoms were reported by all groups but more frequently among symptomatic cases than symptomatic controls or asymptomatic children. CONCLUSIONS: Children with symptomatic COVID-19 had a slightly higher prevalence of ongoing symptoms than symptomatic controls, and not as high as previously reported. Healthcare resources should be prioritized to support the mental health of children.
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© Crown copyright 2021.
- long COVID
- SARS-CoV-2 infection