New data from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) shows that long COVID rarely affects children but affects approximately 7% of adults. This data is important to our understanding of how long COVID-19 affects different parts of the population.
This article will review the data and try to explain what it means.
What is long COVID?
Long COVID, also known as chronic COVID, long-haul COVID, or long-term effects of COVID-19, is a form of COVID-19 infection that lingers for weeks, months, and, in many cases, years.
Most people get better within a few days or weeks after being infected, especially those who have been fully vaccinated. Unfortunately, a large proportion of individuals who get the disease first appear to recover, but the symptoms return for a long period of time (again, for years). They also develop new symptoms or health conditions within a few months of the original COVID-19 infection.
Long-COVID conditions do not affect everyone the same way. They can cause various types and combinations of symptoms in different people. The symptoms may affect other parts of the body, for example:
- General symptoms, such as fatigue and fever
- Respiratory symptoms, such as trouble breathing and cough
- Heart symptoms, such as chest pain and palpitations
- Neurologic symptoms such as trouble thinking and concentrating (“brain fog”), headaches, and sleep problems
- Digestive symptoms such as diarrhea and stomach pain
- Some people may have a wide variety of symptoms similar to those of other conditions, such as chronic fatigue syndrome (CFS).
Although most individuals will improve over time, a significant number will continue to show these symptoms for years. Sometimes the symptoms are severe enough to result in disability.
CDC data on long COVID in children and adults
A 2022 National Health Interview Survey of 7,464 children (based on parental interviews) showed that about 1.3% of children, aged 0-17 years, had long COVID even though over 90% were exposed to COVID-19.
Other data from this survey include:
- Among children aged 0-17, girls were more likely than boys to ever have had long COVID (1.6% vs. 0.9%).
- The percentage of girls who currently had long COVID was higher than boys (0.6% vs. 0.3%). However, this difference was not statistically significant.
- Older children, ages 12-17, were more likely to have had long COVID compared to children ages 0-5 and 6-11 (2% vs. 1% vs. 0.8%, respectively). Again, these are small differences.
- The research showed similar patterns for current long COVID-19 (0.8% vs. 0.2% vs. 0.3%, respectively).
- Asian and Black children were less likely than Hispanic children to ever have had long COVID (0.2% vs. 0.6% vs. 1.9%, respectively).
- Asian children were less likely than white children to ever have had long COVID (0.2% vs. 1.2%).
In a similar National Health Interview Survey of 27,651 adults in 2022, the CDC estimated that 6.9% of adults (18 and over) ever had long COVID.
Other data from this research include:
- Women were more likely than men to ever have had long COVID (8.5% vs. 5.2%) and to currently have long COVID (4.4% vs. 2.3%).
- Adults ages 35-49 (8.9%) were more likely than adults ages 18-34 (6.9%), ages 50-64 (7.6%), and ages 65 and up (4.1%)
- all other age groups to ever have had long COVID (8.9% vs. 6.9% for those ages 18-34, 7.6% for those ages 50-64, and 4.1% for those ages 65 and up).
- Asian adults were less likely than Black, white, and Hispanic adults to ever have had long COVID (2.6% vs. 5.4%, 7.1%, and 8.3%, respectively).
I think this data shows some very interesting age, gender, and racial differences in long COVID-19. Very young children appear to have the lowest risk of long COVID-19, and adults, especially in the age group of 35-49, had the highest risk.
More research is necessary to determine what causes these demographic differences. And I intend to write about it when the new research is published.
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