Just five per cent of children who catch coronavirus develop long Covid , a new study shows, with the vast majority making a full recovery in less than a month.
Less than one in 50 children who develop symptoms have ongoing disease four weeks post infection , with the average time of recovery being six days.
The ZOE Covid tracker study, run by King's College London, tracked symptomatic children between Sept 2020 and Feb 2021.
The study showed that the most common symptoms reported in children were headaches, tiredness, a sore throat and loss of smell.
Experts are desperately trying to define exactly what long Covid is, as there is currently no described aetiology, duration or list of symptoms. In adults, the latest ONS data show 962,000 people have long Covid symptoms lasting more than four weeks. Imperial's REACT-2 study recently estimated that two million people in England have, at some point, had one or more Covid symptom lasting at least 12 weeks.
It remains unknown exactly what percentage of adults infected with Covid go on to develop long Covid, but the likelihood is thought to increase by age.
Scientists said it was reassuring that there were no reports of serious neurological symptoms such as fits or seizures, impaired concentration or anxiety in children.
This study, published in The Lancet Child and Adolescent Health, looked solely at the burden of disease in children who had Covid, and went on to become sick.
However, Prof Emma Duncan, senior author of the research, said many children who were infected with the virus had no manifestation of illness at all and were asymptomatic.
"It will be reassuring for families to know that those children who do fall ill with Covid-19 are unlikely to suffer prolonged effects," she said.
"However, our research confirms that a small number do have a long illness duration with Covid-19, though these children, too, usually recover with time.
"We hope our results will be useful for doctors, parents, and schools caring for these children – and, of course, affected children themselves."
Lord Bethell, the health minister, said: "It's encouraging to see the condition [long Covid] is uncommon among children and we will continue to provide support to those suffering the long-term effects of the virus."
Prof Duncan and Dr Michael Absoud, co-author and senior clinical lecturer at King’s College London, warned that while the current focus was on Covid-19, other childhood diseases should not be ignored.
Dr Absoud said: "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.
"This will be particularly important given that the prevalence of these illnesses is likely to increase as physical distancing measures implemented to prevent the spread of Covid-19 are relaxed."
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