Long Covid among adolescents: a reality that is difficult to deal with



Alicia has no doubts about the circumstances in which she caught the Covid. It was in January, in the school canteen. “Usually, I always had lunch with the same friend, she begins. But that day we were told to sit on the tables in order of arrival. I found myself with students I didn’t know. “

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A few days later, when his establishment organized a screening campaign, his test came out positive. “I was disgusted, but since it was said everywhere that for young people, it was not serious, I did not worry, especially since I had just a little cough and a sore throat”.

Three weeks later, however, the 17-year-old is very tired. His sleep is disturbed. Rereading her classes in the evening, she realizes that she happens to write the same thing several times. She has trouble concentrating. She lives in slow motion. “Morally, it’s complicated”, confides the young girl, who will soon see a neurologist for a check-up.

Lack of data

How many adolescents face the same difficulties? A few studies have been carried out, notably in Italy, but the data are lacking. The World Health Organization (WHO) would be working on an accurate estimate. But in France, the reality of such a syndrome among the youngest divides the medical community.

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Almost silent on the subject, the French Pediatric Society did not respond to requests from The cross. “The rare times she expresses herself on the subject, it is to say that it is harmless”, fulminates Elisa Zeno, co-founder of the School and Forgotten Families collective, which has been campaigning for months for the establishment of a reinforced health protocol in schools.

“The subject is unfortunately controversial”, confirms Doctor Eric Guedj, head of the nuclear medicine department at the Timone hospital in Marseille. So much so that the practitioner, one of the first to be interested in this question, no longer wishes to express himself until the publication of his work.

No specific test

“The long Covid for adults is starting to become commonplace, including for young adults of 19 or 20 years old. Why shouldn’t this apply to adolescents? It’s incomprehensible “, says Dr Alaa Ghali. A specialist in chronic fatigue syndrome, whose manifestations are similar to those of long Covid, this doctor at the Angers University Hospital is one of the few practitioners taking care of adolescents.

“I receive calls from all over France, he assures. But we are not a pediatric service: we are not allowed to treat patients under 15 years and two months. “

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While there is no specific test for the diagnosis, Dr Ghali noticed that certain symptoms returned regularly, in particular an intolerance to standing and post-exercise exhaustion. “A physical or psychological effort that they made before becomes insurmountable”, he sums up.

According to him, these symptoms are too frequently blamed on the psyche. “On the other hand, the persistence of these problems can lead to psychological disorders, he points out. Parents’ concerns, often very strong, also affect their morale. “

An anguish to which Alexandra testifies (1). “As a parent, it’s very difficult to go through. We feel discredited by the medical profession ”, she explains. Hospitalized several times, his 13-year-old son has not been to school for months. She stopped working to take care of him. “Arthur had never had a problem before that, she insists. He was a happy child and good about himself. “

” Move on ! “

Being heard is sometimes the first thing these adolescents and their families need. “For them, it’s a relief”, confirms Doctor Anne Perrin. Pediatrician in the adolescent unit of university hospitals in Geneva, Switzerland, this head of clinic participated in the creation a few weeks ago of a consultation dedicated to long pediatric Covid.

“For the moment, we have received around twenty patients, she reports. Obviously, these problems do not concern the majority of adolescents, far from it. But just because we lack data doesn’t mean we shouldn’t try to help them. Some adolescents are severely handicapped by these symptoms, which often has a significant impact on their education. We cannot afford to let them off the hook. “

Alicia, she was able to get a third time for the French bac exams. She still hopes for better recognition of her illness so that her friends stop minimizing her fatigue. “Some still tell me: “It’s good, it’s okay now, move on! “ I’m just asking for that… ”

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