CHILDREN and teenagers who have had Covid are at increased risk of developing seizures or psychotic illnesses up to two years after recovering from the infection.

Scientists who compared long-term outcomes between adults and children in the US who had had Covid compared to another respiratory illness found that Covid was associated with a higher excess incidence of psychiatric and neurological disorders.

The findings, published today in the journal Lancet Psychiatry, also found that while Omicron causes milder Covid disease compared to the previously dominant Delta variant, both showed similar levels of risk for developing psychiatric and neurological problems.

Researchers comparing outcomes over two years in children who had had Covid, compared to other respiratory illnesses, found excess rates of seizures and psychosisSource: Lancet Psychiatry

In adults aged 18 to 64, rates of diagnosis for 'brain fog' were 16% higher two years on compared to adults who had had other respiratory infections up to two years previously.

The rate was 640 cases per 10,000 people who had had Covid, compared to 550 cases per 10,000 for other respiratory infections.

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In adults aged over 65, dementia diagnoses were 36% higher in recovered Covid patients compared to the control group (450 versus 330 cases per 10,000), while children under 18 who had had Covid were twice as likely to have been diagnosed with seizures two years on (260 versus 130 cases per 10,000) and three times more likely to have developed some form of psychotic disorder (18 vs six cases per 10,000) compared to children who had had another respiratory illness.

Researchers comparing outcomes over two years in children who had had Covid, compared to other respiratory illnesses, found excess rates of seizures and psychosisSource: Lancet Psychiatry

The authors caution that the study only tracked excess risk - it does not attempt to offer any explanation for how or why Covid is associated with these increased incidence rates.

Researchers comparing outcomes over two years in children who had had Covid, compared to other respiratory illnesses, found excess rates of seizures and psychosisSource: Lancet Psychiatry

Professor Paul Harrison, a psychiatrist and lead author of the study at Oxford University, said the numbers involved were "not trivial, but they're not huge" and "shouldn't really lead to panic".

However, he added that they could increase pressure on already overburdened NHS services.

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Prof Harrison said: "[The numbers] need to be set against the increasing burden of mental and brain health problems that may have occurred across the whole population because of the pandemic.

"But yes, certainly for some conditions there appears to be a non-trivial and persistent greater risk of these diagnoses being made [after Covid].

"And for some of these diagnoses it's highly likely that those people are going to need medical attention.

"For example, if you take psychotic disorders as the exemplar, as a rule those disorders do need a not inconsiderable and sometimes sustained intervention and I think, if there's going to be an increase in the number of cases for say child and adolescent mental health services - which are already under considerable strain in this country - this can only add to that burden.

"It would be hard not to argue very strongly that increased resources are going to be needed, not only just now, but for the foreseeable future."