Are we sure that the neurological impact of COVID 19 in childhood has not been underestimated?

Ital J Pediatr. 2021 Sep 18;47(1):191. doi: 10.1186/s13052-021-01144-y.


Background: Presently, it is known that, even if less frequently than in adults, children can develop a severe new coronavirus disease 2019 (COVID-19). Children with the SARS-CoV-2 infection can have neurological signs and symptoms of disease more frequently than previously thought, revealing the involvement of the central nervous system, the peripheral nervous system, or both. Aim of this manuscript is to highlight the neurologic complications associated with SARS-CoV-2 among pediatric patients with COVID-19, suggesting when to monitor carefully neurologic development.

Main findings: Children with a severe chronic underlying disease, infants and toddlers and those who develop the so-called multisystem inflammatory syndrome (MIS-C) are those with the highest incidence of neurological complications. Fortunately, in most of the cases, neurological manifestations, mainly represented by headache and anosmia, are mild and transient and do not significantly complicate the COVID-19 course. However, in some cases, very severe clinical problems associated with relevant alterations of neuroimaging, electroencephalography, nerve conduction studies and electromyography findings can develop. Generally, almost all the children with COVID-19 and neurological manifestations till now described have made a complete recovery, although in some cases this has occurred after several weeks of treatment. Moreover, COVID-19 infection during pregnancy has been found associated with an increased risk of obstetric complications that can lead to neurological acute and long-term manifestations in neonates.

Conclusions: Based on data showing the neurologic impact of COVID-19 in pediatric age, we suggest monitoring neurological development a few months after healing in pediatric patients who have presented MIS-C, seizures or other neurological manifestations and in children of pregnant women with COVID-19 in order to detect overt and subtle deficits.

Keywords: ADEM; COVID-19; Children; MIS-C; Neurologic complications.

MeSH terms

  • COVID-19 / complications*
  • COVID-19 / diagnosis
  • COVID-19 / virology
  • Child
  • Child, Preschool
  • Comorbidity
  • Female
  • Humans
  • Infant
  • Infant, Newborn
  • Male
  • Nervous System Diseases / diagnosis
  • Nervous System Diseases / virology*
  • Pregnancy
  • Pregnancy Complications, Infectious / diagnosis
  • Pregnancy Complications, Infectious / virology*
  • Risk Factors
  • SARS-CoV-2
  • Seizures / virology
  • Systemic Inflammatory Response Syndrome / diagnosis
  • Systemic Inflammatory Response Syndrome / virology*

Supplementary concepts

  • pediatric multisystem inflammatory disease, COVID-19 related