Once healthy children struggling with symptoms months after COVID-19 infection

Madison Foor, a 14-year-old competitive dancer, was healthy before she contracted COVID-19 in January. Ten months later, she uses an inhaler every day.

“It’s a little scary, like I can’t breathe,” she said.

Foor returned to the University of Michigan Children’s Hospital this week to check on his lung function. The clinic studies so-called long-term COVID symptoms in children.

“My heart starts pumping very fast, and my lungs, it’s like a constant need for air,” Foor said.

A recent study in the UK found that COVID affects one in seven children months after they have been infected. Symptoms may include headaches, anxiety, lung problems, and fatigue.

Katharine Clouser, a pediatric hospitalist, said her team is seeing an increase in the number of children with long-hauling symptoms. Clouser and her team at Hackensack Meridian Health in New Jersey opened one of the first pediatric COVID recovery centers in the state last spring.

“There has been some anecdotal evidence that their symptoms are improving,” Clouser said.

The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention recently recommended use of the Pfizer vaccine for children between the ages of 5 to 11 years. Since then, nearly 1 million children in that age group have received their first dose.

One of Clouser’s patients, 4-year-old Aaron Estrada, was healthy until he received COVID a year ago. Then he developed a multi-system inflammatory syndrome, lost his hair and was unable to walk or stand for a month.

Estrada needed months of physical therapy to learn how to walk again. After 12 months of treatment, Estrada’s doctors hope he will fully recover. He won’t turn 5 until next spring, but his doctors plan to vaccinate him this month because his symptoms have been so severe.

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