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'Dropping Grades Because They Can't Concentrate': Doctors Learning More About Long COVID In Pediatric Patients

MIAMI (CBSMiami) – As kids get ready to return to school, it's doctors and infectious disease experts who are the ones learning some tough lessons about pediatric patients with what's known as "long COVID."

"Long-haul COVID is a phenomenon that we've come to understand where people continue to be symptomatic from the COVID-19 infection for up to 12 weeks after the illness," said Dr. Chad Perlyn at Nicklaus Children's Hospital. "So that's a long time."

Physicians like Dr. Perlyn say being diagnosed with long COVID can be so debilitating.

"The main things that we see that define the hallmark of long-term COVID-19 are confusion or mental fog, fatigue or shortness of breath. And it's real," Perlyn said.

Because COVID is such a relatively new illness, it's tough to pinpoint the percentage of pediatric COVID patients suffering from long-term effects.

Dr. Laura Malone is a physician at Baltimore's Kennedy Krieger Institute, the nation's leader in pediatric rehabilitation. Malone said the most reliable data about pediatric long haulers comes from Europe.

"Those estimates range anywhere between 5-10% could have persistent symptoms or be diagnosed with long COVID," said Malone, a pediatric neurologist.

For young students suffering from the long-term effects of COVID, school can be as big a struggle as the disease itself.

"They're having dropping grades because they can't concentrate," Malone said.

As the delta variant drives hospital admissions up at hospitals like Nicklaus Children's Hospital, another big issue of concern is vaccinations. Children over 12 can receive the shot, but so far nationally well under 50% have.

"We recommend, along with the CDC and the American Academy of Pediatrics recommend, that all children and adolescents get vaccinated unless there's a specific reason, whether religious or medical," Perlyn said.

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