For months, parents have been fighting for Covid to be recognized in children – and slowly but surely something is changing.
Fifteen specialized long Covid clinics for children and adolescents will open across England, the NHS announced as part of a £ 100 million expansion of care for people with the disease.
The pediatric hubs will bring together experts on common symptoms such as respiratory disease and fatigue who can treat children directly, advise family doctors or other caregivers, or refer them to other specialist services.
How common is long Covid in children?
According to the Office for National Statistics (ONS), more than a million people have reported suffering from Covid for a long time.
While the majority of children and adolescents are not severely affected by Covid, ONS data has shown that 7.4% of children ages 2-11 and 8.2% of children ages 12-16 have persistent symptoms Report.
Earlier this year, parents told HuffPost UK that they felt helpless at how much their children’s lives had been disrupted by common long-term symptoms such as fatigue, body aches and headaches.
One father told us that his son was “like a six-year-old in the body of a 90-year-old.” Chris Ward said his little boy Thomas developed a fever, shortness of breath and pain all over his body for the first time in February 2020. When he spoke to us in January 2021, his son was still suffering. Every few weeks his temperature rose, his glands kept enlarging, and his body ached most days.
In order to raise awareness of the effects of the virus on children, parents have joined forces to form the Long Covid Kids action group.
An informal survey of the parents in the group found that the affected children most frequently suffered from fatigue, sore throats, gastrointestinal problems, headaches, muscle aches and weakness, months after they first became ill.
What is the purpose of the new hubs?
The new centers for children will bring together pediatricians, physical therapists, nurses and occupational therapists to provide expert advice to general practitioners, community nurses and other staff caring for Covid patients up to the age of 18 so that they can get closer to the help they need receive their home.
They see and handle even complicated cases directly or refer them to other specialist services.
Where will the hubs be located?
- The Newcastle upon Tyne Hospitals NHS Foundation Trust (NuTH)
- South Tees NHS Foundation Trust (James Cook University Hospital)
- Sheffield Children’s NHS Foundation Trust
- Leeds Children’s Hospital NHS Foundation Trust
- Hull University Teaching Hospital NHS Foundation Trust
- Alder Hey Children’s Hospital
- Manchester Children’s Hospital
- Birmingham and Solihull Birmingham Women’s and Children’s NHSFT
- Leicester, Leicestershire and Rutland University Hospital Leicester NHST
- Cambridge University Hospitals
- Bristol Children’s Hospital
- Oxford University Hospitals
- Queen Alexandra Hospital, Portsmouth
- University Hospital Southampton NHS Foundation Trust
- London hub led by Evelina, Imperial, UCLH and GOSH
There is already a network of specialist Covid clinics in place, funded with £ 34million, but some people have struggled to reach them because of where they live.
While the opening of the centers for young people will be welcome news for some – and recognition of the impact this condition has on children – the question is whether just 15 centers across the country will be enough to help the thousands of children who are suffering.
HuffPost UK has contacted the Long Covid Kids campaign group to hear their opinion and will update this article if we receive a response.