July 19, 2024

Health & Fitness

How long Covid affects education, lives of kids, youth

IANS | September 20, 2023 09:23 PM

Long Covid has had a detrimental effect on children and young people's school experience and wider lives, finds new research.

To understand, a team of UK researchers explored the impact of long Covid on children and young people's experiences of school, engaging with 22 children and young people (aged 10-18) and 15 parents and caregivers of those aged 5-18 years.

The insights, published in the BMJ Open, highlighted the pivotal role of school in returning to a 'normal life' after illness. However, returning to school was often a false hope, rather than a genuine return to normality.

Extreme fatigue meant full school attendance was often a quick route back into illness. As one 13-year-old boy described, "I couldn't really do anything [with friends] at break. I was just resting. I struggled going up the stairs. I can't do PE. Yeah, I just feel tired after every lesson."

"I have really bad meltdowns where I just want to be back to normal [...] I do half days at school [...] go in at like 11am, and I come home and I just, I'm crying [and] "I just want to be normal again, " added Mae, 11 years old, who had long Covid for eight months.

For those managing to attend school part-time, juggling studies and social activities with enough rest to avoid making symptoms worse was a big challenge.

"The findings highlight how much children and young people value school and education as part of normal everyday life. It is important to listen to the experiences of young people with long Covid and use their voices to inform practical and achievable recommendations for how educational and health care professionals can support them, " said Dr. Cervantee Wild, co-author and researcher from Nuffield Department of Primary Care Health Sciences at the University of Oxford.

Young people valued education highly but felt cut off from friends and stressed about falling behind due to frequent absences. Parents told of difficulties liaising with schools, particularly around getting validation about legitimate illness from already overburdened health care. School support varied drastically, spanning from scepticism to empathy and tailored adjustments.

"This research clearly shows that absence from school due to long Covid has a stressful and isolating impact on children and young people. The findings highlight the need for greater awareness and understanding of long Covid in schools, and for tailored support to enable those affected to engage with school in a way that is manageable and not detrimental to their physical or mental health, " said lead author Dr. Alice MacLean, and researcher from the Institute for Social Marketing and Health at the University of Stirling.

The authors call for the need for greater awareness of long Covid in schools and targeted support for affected children, young people and their families.

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