Frequently Asked Questions about COVID-19 — July 6, 2022

“Shared expectations lead to predictability.”

575. Long Covid in children is rare, but it does continue to exist.

         QCan children have signs of long Covid without being infected with Covid-19?

         A:  The long-awaited approval for vaccinations for children age 5 and under should help to address one big parental fear:  that a child could contract long Covid — a cluster of lingering symptoms that include fatigue, headaches, brain fog, racing heart and stomach issues.  Experts estimate that long Covid may affect about 20% of adults.  Studies have suggested that long Covid is rarer in children, but they can develop it.

A recent article on June 22 in The New York Times by authors Nancy Wartik, and Remy Tubin in collaboration with Pam Bulluck, explored the issue of long Covid in children.  Far more children have been infected by Covid than earlier was known.  Today, according to the American Academy of Pediatrics, the number of children between the ages of 6 months and 5 years old who have actually contracted Covid-19 has risen to more than 13 million — almost certainly an undercount. A separate C.D.C. study estimated that by February about 75% of children under age 18 had blood antibodies to the coronavirus, suggesting they had been infected.  Most of these cases with children are either asymptomatic or mild and escape detection by parents as being Covid.

So in children, any of the characteristics of long Covid – fatigue, headaches, heart or stomach problems can be the first sign there is something wrong.  Some health issues like anxiety, fatigue, and headaches could have multiple causes. It is important not to dismiss those symptoms while remembering some could be caused or exacerbated by other stressors, too, like school closures, remote learning, and lockdowns.  Fatigue is probably the most common feature of long Covid, and that’s a very tricky thing to address. Parents may want to seek help at a post-Covid clinic for children — there are some clinics that have an interdisciplinary network of specialists and can address issues like fatigue with programs that include physical therapy.  But access to these specialty clinics can be difficult and many parents decide to just ride it out.  The conclusion is reached to get your child vaccinated.  And if your child does have signs and symptoms of long Covid, even without an identifiable infection with Covid-19, and if he or she doesn’t improve for weeks or months, parents should aggressively pursue specialized evaluation and therapies before the conditions become permanent, chronic disabilities.  Remember, long Covid in children remains extremely rare in children, even though it does continue to exist.

576.  A new Covid-19 Omicron subvariant surge is underway in Europe.

         Q:  Are we able to permanently “return to normal” yet?

         A:  The British newspaper The Guardian reported two weeks ago that multiple European countries are experiencing a significant surge in new Covid-19 infections, as experts warn that with almost all restrictions lifted and booster take-up often low, cases could soar throughout the summer leading to more deaths.  The rolling seven-day average of confirmed new cases per million inhabitants is on the rise in countries including Portugal, France, Germany, Italy, Spain, Greece, the Netherlands, and Denmark.

“The pandemic is accelerating again, despite the warm weather,” Dr Benjamin Davido, an infectious diseases specialist at the Raymond-Poincaré hospital outside Paris, said.

“The new Omicron subvariants BA.4 and BA.5 are 10% to 15% more infectious and it’s this that is giving the virus an added kick,” He continued, that in the medium term the situation could become “very tough” in the country’s hospitals.  “We are in a very particular situation in which it is vital that we maintain stable immunity through booster shots.” Hospitals could fill up over the summer, he said, unless vulnerable people and those over 60 get an additional dose as soon as possible.

In the past, European surges like this one usually predict the future in America.  Experts in the U.S. have been following this European surge, and both Pfizer and Moderna are now working on modifications to their separate vaccine formulas to increase their effectiveness against this new subvariant.  The FDA is expected to approve these reformulations and an additional booster shot will be authorized by this coming fall for those already vaccinated.  Those getting vaccinated for the first time will also be offered the new modified Pfizer or Moderna vaccine once it is approved.  In Connecticut, 80.1% of the population is fully vaccinated, while only 42.3% have received at least one booster shot.  We are not able to “return to normal” just yet.

577.  Lemonade stands are prolificating throughout America.

         Q:  What projects can families work on together this summer? 

         A:   The New York Times recently recalled an essential past practice that has remerged throughout our country:  Lemonade stands have long been part of the quintessential American experience. A New York Times article from July 1880 describes them popping up around New York City: “This cheap lemonade business has come very much to the front in New York within the last year or two,” it said. “Before if a thirsty soul wanted a glass of lemonade, on a hot day, he had to go into some bar-room and pay 15 cents for it. Now, at any one of these lemonade stands — and scores of them have been established — a customer can have a glass of ice-cold lemonade made before his eyes for five cents.”

Children eventually took over the trade, and for at least a few generations, parents have seen them as ways for their children to learn entrepreneurial skills while having fun.

Lemonade stands suffered early in the pandemic: Social-distancing rules made them all but impossible. Now they are back in full force in both cities and suburbs across America. While some families still use concentrate and card tables, others have become more ambitious: making D.I.Y. stands, buying special wardrobes for the occasion, advertising on social media, and offering more upscale options (organic elderflower lemonade, anyone?). Additionally, many vendors are opting to donate their proceeds to charity.  When life gives you only lemons, ….   It’s time to have some fun.