Madison Foor is a fit, healthy teen who has spent the last five years as a competitive dancer.
But now, months after a mild case of COVID, the eighth grader uses an inhaler for the first time in her life.
Short walks can also leave her winded. Headaches are frequent. She needs more breaks during dance lessons.
The 14-year-old is believed to be among a small but growing group of pediatric patients who may be experiencing long haul COVID, a much more commonly reported condition in adults. While the majority of children and teens have mild COVID-19 symptoms or are asymptomatic, some face persistent symptoms months after recovery or develop a rare but serious COVID-linked condition called multisystem inflammatory syndrome, or MIS-C.
In response, Michigan Medicine C.S. Mott Children’s Hospital has opened the Pediatric Post-COVID Syndrome Clinic, believed to be the first in the state to specifically serve this population of young patients.
“We’ve seen children who have breathing issues and other lingering symptoms long after an initial infection,” says Carey Lumeng, M.D., Ph.D., Mott pediatric pulmonologist who leads the new clinic.
“Most of their COVID infections were mild and didn’t require hospitalization or even outpatient care. Our goal is to better understand this phenomenon in young people and ensure that patients see the right group of specialists to address their specific symptoms.”
Last year, more than 2 million of the nearly 30 million confirmed cases of COVID-19 in the U.S. involved children, according to the Centers for Disease Control. That includes over 115,000 children in the state of Michigan.
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But it’s unclear how many young patients have long-term symptoms known as post-COVID syndrome or “long COVID.” Symptoms may include fatigue, shortness of breath, joint pain, chest pain, cough and loss of taste or smell. Mott has seen more than a dozen cases so far.
The Mott post-COVID syndrome clinic is for patients under age 21 who’ve been referred by a primary care provider and whose symptoms have continued beyond six weeks after an infection. It brings together several specialties, including pediatric pulmonology, cardiology, physical medicine and rehabilitation, and pediatric psychology to address young patients’ unique needs.
Madison’s mom, Mariha, of Dundee, Mich., says her daughter is slowly gaining back strength after her bout with COVID in January, but for the first few weeks couldn’t even manage five minutes walking on a treadmill.