Neurological issues ‘relatively common’ in children hospitalized with COVID

“There can be no keener revelation of a society’s soul than the way in which it treats its children.” -Nelson Mandela

With COVID-19 you don’t always get just COVID-19. Many battle complications that can be as or more devastating than the virus. Unfortunately, that means kids can get complications, too. A new study by scientists at Monroe Carell Jr. Children’s Hospital at Vanderbilt reinforces the urgent need to vaccinate children against COVID-19 to reduce the likelihood of neurologic complications.

Dr. James Antoon, an assistant professor of Pediatrics at Monroe Carell led the study of more than 15,000 children who had been hospitalized for COVID-19 infection during the first two years of the pandemic. 

“We determined that neurologic complications are relatively common, occurring in about 8% of children hospitalized with COVID-19,” Antoon says in a statement. “The complications are almost uniformly associated with worse outcomes and can be life-altering conditions. The best way to prevent these complications is to lower the chances of getting COVID-19 through vaccination, wearing masks in indoor crowded places, and staying home when sick.”

For the purpose of this study, neurologic complications were defined as encephalopathy, encephalitis, aseptic meningitis, febrile seizure, non-febrile seizure, brain abscess, bacterial meningitis, Reye’s syndrome, and cerebral infarction. Analysis of COVID-19 infection and complications in children aged 2 months to 18 years showed that neurologic complications were associated with increased risk of ICU admission, readmissions, deaths while hospitalized, and increased hospital costs compared to hospitalizations without neurologic complications.

“As we found in our study, COVID-related complications can have a significant impact on the lives of children,” adds Antoon. “With the emergence of new, highly contagious variants, the potential patients that are at risk is growing. Our findings emphasize the importance of vaccination and prevention of COVID-19 in children in order to prevent these potentially life-threating complications.”

The research is published in the journal Pediatrics.

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About the Author

Dr. Faith Coleman

Faith A. Coleman MD
Dr. Coleman is a graduate of the University of New Mexico School of Medicine and holds a BA in journalism from UNM. She completed her family practice residency at Wm. Beaumont Hospital, Troy and Royal Oak, MI, consistently ranked among the United States Top 100 Hospitals by US News and World Report. Dr. Coleman writes on health, medicine, family, and parenting for online information services and educational materials for health care providers.

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