Intended for healthcare professionals

Letters To each child their own coronavirus

The elephant and the blind men: the children of long covid

BMJ 2021; 372 doi: (Published 19 January 2021) Cite this as: BMJ 2021;372:n157
  1. Frances K Simpson, lecturer of psychology1,
  2. Amali U Lokugamage, consultant obstetrician and gynaecologist and honorary associate professor2
  1. 1Coventry University (SC), Scarborough YO11 2JW, UK
  2. 2Whittington Health NHS Trust and University College London, London, UK
  1. ac7768{at}

In response to Martinerie and colleagues’ article1 we note the concerns about the sociological effects of the pandemic on children. We feel, however, that the article’s view that SARS-CoV-2 infection is less severe in children is unsubstantiated and, as outlined in our BMJ Opinion piece,2 there has been insufficient epidemiological study of long covid in children.

We appreciate art as a therapeutic outlet and means of communication for adults to understand what coronavirus has meant to children. We also appreciate the use of the parable of the blind men and the elephant3 in describing the subjective experiences of coronavirus for children. This important allegory can be extended to include children whose lived experience of the pandemic has been one of chronic illness.

The parable of the elephant and the blind men may also be adopted to offer a useful account of long covid itself—each patient experiencing their own version which has required excellent communication to conceptualise the condition. The recent long covid NICE guideline4 is a testament to this process, a demonstration that when all the blind men share their experiences, they do not need to come to blows.

Children’s experience of the virus relies on the beneficence and advocacy of adults to be heard. The children from the Long Covid Kids organisation5 have made use of film6 to express their experiences. Let’s ensure that it gets heard and that responses to the pandemic for children are co-produced by children, their carers, and the official organisations that seek to offer assistance.



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