Alyssa Smyth and her mother, Cathy, both have long-COVID. (Brian Goldman/CBC)
Dr. Anu Wadhwa says COVID-19 symptoms can start out mild but then become chronic, debilitating
Parents whose children have developed long-haul cases of COVID-19 are urging others not to underestimate the virus’s impact on kids as they prepare for the return to class this week.

Doctors and other health-care workers who treat kids with long-COVID are also calling for more attention to the risks faced by the under-12 set, who can’t yet be vaccinated while the delta variant fuels a fourth wave of the pandemic.

They say that even seemingly mild cases of COVID can lead to prolonged illness in kids, despite the predominant message heard throughout the pandemic that children are only modestly affected.

Dr. Anu Wadhwa, a pediatric infectious diseases staff physician at the Hospital for Sick Children in Toronto who has been treating and studying children with long-COVID, says the virus can set kids back for months.

“Most of the children we’re following had pretty mild disease that pretty much resolved the way you expected it to,” Wadhwa told White Coat, Black Art host Dr. Brian Goldman.

“However, either certain symptoms lingered and persisted or [the kids] had a period of feeling well — and went bike riding for a day or two — and then started to feel worse again,” said Wadhwa, who is also an associate professor of pediatrics at the University of Toronto.

“So it seems very typical that even with mild infection, some of these kids are getting very pronounced, persistent symptoms.”

Those symptoms include things like joint pain, fatigue, shortness of breath and — perhaps most difficult to treat — brain fog.