Kansas City area kids and teens treated as long haulers with lasting COVID symptoms

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KANSAS CITY, Kan. — The University of Kansas Health System said they are treating a group of pediatric long haulers: Kids and teens experiencing the long-lasting effects of COVID-19.

The youngest patient is 10 years old. Not only are they feeling the physical impact, but doctors say it’s also impacting their mental health.

Dr. Brad Nelson is a pediatrician with the health system who is working with many of them.

“What we’re seeing typically are kids who had COVID maybe 5, 6, 7 months ago, but are still having some symptoms that are lingering,” Nelson said.

Children’s Mercy Hospital said they have 22 kids in their care with COVID-19 due to the delta variant, and some of them are fighting for their life in the ICU.

“This is the longest stretch we’ve had with children with this many in the hospital,” Jennifer Watts, the Chief Emergency Officer for the hospital said.

Now, some of the kids they treated at the beginning of the pandemic are being seen at the University of Kansas Health system.

“We want to prevent disease, not just because we want to prevent hospitalizations, but we also want to prevent multi-system inflammatory syndrome which we know happens in children. We also want to prevent long hauler COVID, which although is pretty rare in kids, it still happens,” Angela Myers, Children’s Mercy’s division director for infectious disease said.

“Things like persistent shortness of breath, mood disorders, so depression, anxiety that’s new and hasn’t really been around before. Really, almost crippling fatigue, that they just don’t kind of want to get up and do anything and the persistent lack of smell,” Nelson said.

Some might wonder if the children had previous medical conditions or issues with weight. Nelson says that’s not the case.

“Most of the kids that I’ve seen come through the long COVID Clinic are, were previously very healthy, some that were extremely active in sports, very, like, top high school athletes that have come in with these symptoms,” Nelson said.

The youngest patient he’s worked with is 10 years old.

On Tuesday, Missouri Attorney General Eric Schmitt announced he’s suing Missouri school districts who mandated masks for students heading into this school year.

“When we know there are things that have proven to be effective and are relatively harmless, as far as things go, that to take that away from our sort of arsenal of potential treatments or preventive measures, is really frustrating,” Nelson said.

Nelson said masking is the best way for kids to stay in school and keep others from getting sick, and possibly becoming long haulers themselves.

“To get a hold of this requires us to all work together and to really accept and follow the science and that says that getting vaccinated and, and wearing masks are helpful,” Nelson said.

If you are wondering if the kids came from unvaccinated households — the answer is yes. Kids who are long haulers at this point in the pandemic caught the virus before the vaccine was available to the majority of parents.

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