Predictive model for long COVID in children 3 months after a SARS-CoV-2 PCR test

Manjula D. Nugawela, Terence Stephenson, Roz Shafran, Bianca L. De Stavola, Shamez N. Ladhani, Ruth Simmons, Kelsey McOwat, Natalia Rojas, Emma Dalrymple, Emily Y. Cheung, Tamsin Ford, Isobel Heyman, Esther Crawley, Snehal M. Pinto Pereira*

*Corresponding author for this work

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

12 Citations (Scopus)


Background: To update and internally validate a model to predict children and young people (CYP) most likely to experience long COVID (i.e. at least one impairing symptom) 3 months after SARS-CoV-2 PCR testing and to determine whether the impact of predictors differed by SARS-CoV-2 status. Methods: Data from a nationally matched cohort of SARS-CoV-2 test-positive and test-negative CYP aged 11–17 years was used. The main outcome measure, long COVID, was defined as one or more impairing symptoms 3 months after PCR testing. Potential pre-specified predictors included SARS-CoV-2 status, sex, age, ethnicity, deprivation, quality of life/functioning (five EQ-5D-Y items), physical and mental health and loneliness (prior to testing) and number of symptoms at testing. The model was developed using logistic regression; performance was assessed using calibration and discrimination measures; internal validation was performed via bootstrapping and the final model was adjusted for overfitting. Results: A total of 7139 (3246 test-positives, 3893 test-negatives) completing a questionnaire 3 months post-test were included. 25.2% (817/3246) of SARS-CoV-2 PCR-positives and 18.5% (719/3893) of SARS-CoV-2 PCR-negatives had one or more impairing symptoms 3 months post-test. The final model contained SARS-CoV-2 status, number of symptoms at testing, sex, age, ethnicity, physical and mental health, loneliness and four EQ-5D-Y items before testing. Internal validation showed minimal overfitting with excellent calibration and discrimination measures (optimism-adjusted calibration slope: 0.96575; C-statistic: 0.83130). Conclusions: We updated a risk prediction equation to identify those most at risk of long COVID 3 months after a SARS-CoV-2 PCR test which could serve as a useful triage and management tool for CYP during the ongoing pandemic. External validation is required before large-scale implementation.

Original languageEnglish
Article number465
JournalBMC Medicine
Issue number1
Publication statusPublished - Dec 2022

Bibliographical note

Publisher Copyright:
© 2022, The Author(s).


  • COVID-19
  • Children and young people
  • Long COVID
  • Predictive model
  • Public health
  • Symptoms


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