Can Covid-19 give rise to neurological problems in kids? An expert answers

Published on: 25 January 2022, 11:00 am IST

Covid-19 is said to be mild in the case of kids, but there are certain instances when they cause long-term neurological complications.

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Most children with Covid-19 have relatively mild clinical symptoms as compared to adults. But in certain cases, multi-organ involvement is also reported. So, what are some neurological complications that may arise post-Covid? These can be divided into acute and chronic complications.

Acute complications in kids due to Covid-19

Around 16 percent of children have non-specific neurological concerns such as headaches, nausea, fatigue, hyposmia (loss of smell), and hypogeusia (loss of taste). These could last for a few days, during or after the Covid-19 infection.
Approximately, 1 percent have specific neurological concerns like seizures (abnormal body movement), encephalopathy (loss of alertness), meningeal signs ( signs associated with inflammation of the covering of the brain, like pain in the neck, inability to flex neck, etc.).

Other neurological associations could be bleeding in the brain, insult to a nerve arising from the brain (cranial nerve palsy), or weakness of limb (Guillain-Barre syndrome). Occasionally, the child may present with stroke (acute weakness of one side of the body, or a limb). This is more commonly associated when multi-system or multi-organ involvement is present.

These complications vary with different strains of Covid-19. The complications were much more commonly associated with Delta variant than Omicron.

Also read: Second wave of Covid-19 has affected children’s mental health: Study

neurological issues in children with covid-19
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Chronic complications in kids due to Covid-19

Due to long-standing limited social interaction and closure of schools, there are various neuro-psychological complications seen among children of different ages:

1. In children 0 to 3 years:

Due to lack of exposure to social life – as children were cooped up in their houses with parents – and excessive exposure to screen time in the form of television and mobile, children are presenting with a lack of social and communication skills. There are proven reports that state that children less than 2 years, if exposed to screen time, can present with speech delay, excessive temper tantrums, and cognitive decline. As lockdown limited social life and interaction with their peer, the children are presenting with a lack of age-appropriate social and communication milestones. There are associated behavioural concerns also.

2. In 3 years and above:

Kindergarten and schools not only provide our children with practical exposure and an environment for generalization of their skills, but they also enhance their social skills. Due to the closure of schools, children are receiving education through screens, without any human contact. This lack of sensory stimulation has again aggravated their speech delays and increased their behavioural concerns. As energy is not being dissipated and there is an accumulation of excessive energy, children are becoming more hyperactive, impulsive, and aggressive.

neurological issues in children with covid-19
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Also, parents have limited time to spend, since they are busy with other household and office work, sparing little time to engage with children and play with them. This has made children search for solutions on their own, despite having no knowledge about the subject. In turn, this is giving rise to more tantrums and chaos.

The educational needs are also not met, as the screen cannot establish the same connection as humans. The results of academic backwardness will become obvious in the near future, when children will be promoted to the next class without knowledge of the subject.

The pandemic has not only caused a catastrophic toll on human lives; it also has both acute and chronic neuro-psychological effects on our children.

Dr Puja Kapoor Dr Puja Kapoor

Dr Puja Kapoor Co-founder, Continua Kids