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

Children struggle with long-haul COVID symptoms
Children struggle with long-haul COVID symptoms 02:10

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 feels a little scary, like I can't breathe," she said. 

Foor returned to the University of Michigan's children's hospital this week to check her lung function. The clinic is studying so-called long haul COVID symptoms in children. 

"My heart starts pumping really fast, and my lungs, it's just like constant need for air," Foor said. 

A recent study in the United Kingdom found that COVID affects one in seven children months after they were infected. Symptoms can include headaches, anxiety, lung issues and fatigue. 

Katharine Clouser, a pediatric hospitalist, said her team is seeing an increase in the number of kids with long-hauler 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 kind of evidence that their symptoms do improve," 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 old. Since then, nearly 1 million kids in that age group have received their first dose. 

One of Clouser's patients, 4-year-old Aaron Estrada, was healthy until he got COVID a year ago. Then he developed multi-system inflammatory syndrome, lost his hair and couldn't 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 are hopeful he will make a full recovery. He doesn't turn 5 until next spring, but his doctors plan to vaccinate him this month because his symptoms were so severe. 

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