Although severe Covid-19, which requires hospitalization, is generally less common in children than adults, a new study has shown that children hospitalized with the virus have a significant number of complications that affect the brain affect.
“We found that neurological complications are relatively common, occurring in about 8% of children hospitalized with Covid-19,” said James Antoon, MD, PhD, MPH, assistant professor of pediatrics at Vanderbilt University’s Monroe Carell Jr. Children’s Hospital in Nashville, TN and first author of the study.
In the new study published in the journal paediatricsthe researchers studied 15,137 children admitted to 52 different children’s hospitals between March 2020 and March 2022. The children were between 2 months and 18 years old. The most commonly reported neurological conditions were seizures, either with or without fever, and encephalopathy – an umbrella term for brain damage. Other less commonly reported conditions included brain abscesses, bacterial meningitis and ischemic stroke.
“The complications are almost uniformly associated with poorer outcomes and can be life-changing conditions,” Antoon said.
The scientists also found that younger patients were less likely to develop neurological symptoms as a result of infection than older children. Those infected during the period when the delta variant was the predominant variant were also slightly less likely to have neurological problems than those infected with other variants.
“As we found in our study, COVID-related complications can have a significant impact on children’s lives,” Antoon said. “The potential increases with the emergence of new, highly contagious variants [number of] Patients at risk is increasing,” Antoon added.
Neurological symptoms have also been reported in adult patients with Covid-19. In addition, some people with long Covid also report significant “brain fog”, fatigue and other neurological symptoms, and researchers have made progress in understanding why this happens in some people, even though many of them initially have only mild Covid-19 infection had.
As of mid-June, all children in the US have been eligible for a Covid-19 vaccine, and while there is still no data on how well they can prevent serious neurological complications, Antoon emphasizes the importance of vaccination for children.
“Our findings underscore the importance of vaccination and prevention of Covid-19 in children to prevent these potentially life-threatening complications,” said Antoon.