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'Long Haul Syndrome' patients still dealing with COVID-19 symptoms, months after infection

Some research shows that up to 20 percent of COVID-19 patients experience persistent symptoms for months after infection.

CLEVELAND — COVID-19 "Long Haul Syndrome" is still baffling doctors affecting patients. 

The syndrome, defined by persistent coronavirus symptoms after the virus has left the body, is present in as many as 20 percent of adult cases, and kids are not immune from it either.  Data is limited on how many kids may be dealing with the after effects of a COVID-19 infection, but doctors say it often comes after a mild infection in kids.

This is how 17-year-old Drew Coffey spent most of the last six months.

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“Can’t think 100 percent straight, all I can do is sit in a chair and my head’s just going crazy--sometimes vertigo, sometimes headaches,” Drew told 3News' Monica Robins. 

Back in January, Drew caught a mild case COVID-19; at the time, Drew never imagined the symptoms would worsen and linger. He became a COVID-19 "Long Hauler."

“I have brain fog, sometimes I can’t sleep at night, anxiety, acid reflux and things like that,”  Drew said.

He became one of the first pediatric long-haul cases at University Hopsitals Rainbow Babies and Children's new clinic. About twenty kids are now seeking treatment for COVID symptoms that won’t go away.  The symptoms are as varied as the patients.

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“Shortness of breath, coughing and fever, fatigue and exhaustion, brain fog, atypical chest pain and palpitations, behavioral health issues like depression and anxiety, difficulties with cognition and memory, insomnia and other sleep problems, generalized pain and muscle aches, joint pain and impaired mobility, persistent loss of smell and taste, headache, diarrhea, skin rashes...  the list goes on and on,” says Rainbow Babies and Children’s Hospital pediatric infectious disease specialist Dr. Amy Edwards, who also heads Rainbow’s pediatric COVID long term recovery unit.

Drew finished his sophomore year of high school in the summer with the help of tutors and was looking forward to getting back to his drums in the band, but he’s not sure if he’s ready for school yet.  One thing did help.

“It did help me a lot after getting vaccinated, it helped me not feel so bad all the time, but I also didn’t know if getting COVID again would hurt me even more so I just wanted to protect myself,” Drew said.

His advice to kids heading back to school?

“It’s either you get the vaccine and feel bad for a couple days or feel bad for a couple months,” Drew said.

Part of Drew's treatment was changing his diet.  He stopped eating anything with preservatives and sugar, and is now on a vitamin supplement regimen.

The teenager has improved, and his mom told 3News' Monica Robins that he’s about 75 percent right now, but it’s not enough for him to start school, so he’ll be getting tutored for the first quarter at least.