Long COVID Rare in U.S. Kids, Has Affected 7% of Adults

Derick Alison
Derick Alison
5 Min Read

Long COVID in the U.S. is rare among children and has affected roughly one in 14 adults, according to a pair of data briefs from the CDC’s National Center for Health Statistics (NCHS).

Overall, in 2022, an estimated 1.3% of children in the U.S. ever had long COVID, and 0.5% currently had long COVID, reported Anjel Vahratian, PhD, MPH, of the NCHS, and colleagues.

As for adults, an estimated 6.9% ever had long COVID and 3.4% currently had long COVID that year, said Dzifa Adjaye-Gbewonyo, PhD, MPH, of the NCHS, and colleagues.

Both reports were based on analyses of data from the National Health Interview Survey, totaling 27,651 adults and 7,464 children (based on parental interviews). Long COVID was defined as the presence of symptoms for at least 3 months after having COVID among those with either a positive test or a doctor’s diagnosis of COVID.

The adult findings generally align with earlier CDC data, which showed that the prevalence of long COVID fell from 7.5% in early June 2022 to 6.0% in mid-June 2023. Those estimates were based on an analysis of the Census Bureau’s Household Pulse Survey, a nationally representative sample.

“While more than 90% of children ages 0-17 have been exposed to COVID-19, long COVID remains rare, especially in children younger than 12 years,” Vahratian and colleagues wrote. They noted that data from the Nationwide Commercial Laboratory Seroprevalence Survey show that as of December 2022, nearly 92% of children had antibodies indicating a previous COVID infection.

Among kids, girls were more likely than boys to ever have had long COVID (1.6% vs 0.9%), and while the percentage of girls who currently had long COVID was higher than among boys, the difference wasn’t significant (0.6% vs 0.3%).

Older kids — those ages 12-17 — were more likely than younger ones to ever have had long COVID (2% vs 1% for ages 0-5 and 0.8% for ages 6-11). Similar patterns were seen for current long COVID (0.8% vs 0.2% and 0.3%, respectively).

Asian and Black children were less likely than Hispanic children to ever have had long COVID (0.2% and 0.6% vs 1.9%), and Asian kids were less likely than white kids to ever have had long COVID (0.2% vs 1.2%). Black children were less likely than white children to currently have long COVID (0.1% vs 0.6%).

As for adults, women were more likely than men to ever have had long COVID (8.5% vs 5.2%) and to currently have long COVID (4.4% vs 2.3%), Adjaye-Gbewonyo and colleagues reported.

Adults ages 35-49 were more likely than all other age groups to ever have had long COVID (8.9% vs 6.9% for those ages 18-34, 7.6% for those ages 50-64, and 4.1% for those ages 65 and up). Similar patterns were seen for those who currently had long COVID (4.7% vs 2.7%, 3.8%, and 2.3%, respectively).

Asian adults were less likely than Black, white, and Hispanic adults to ever have had long COVID (2.6% vs 5.4%, 7.1%, and 8.3%), and the same goes for currently having long COVID (1.1% vs 2.4%, 3.7%, and 3.4%).

They also found that prevalence estimates for ever or currently having COVID were generally lower for those with higher income, and for those living in large central metropolitan areas.

Adjaye-Gbewonyo and colleagues noted that data from the Nationwide Blood Donor Seroprevalence Survey suggested that 77.5% of people ages 16 and older had antibodies indicating a previous COVID infection as of December 2022.

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    Kristina Fiore leads MedPage’s enterprise & investigative reporting team. She’s been a medical journalist for more than a decade and her work has been recognized by Barlett & Steele, AHCJ, SABEW, and others. Send story tips to k.fiore@medpagetoday.com. Follow

Primary Source

National Center for Health Statistics

Source Reference: Adjaye-Gbewonyo D, et al “Long COVID in adults: United States, 2022” NCHS Data Brief, No. 480 2023; DOI: 10.15620/cdc:132417.

Secondary Source

National Center for Health Statistics

Source Reference: Vahratian A, et al “Long COVID in children: United States, 2022” NCHS Data Brief, No. 479 2023; DOI: 10.15620/cdc:132416.

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