Alyssa Carpenter, 2, and her sister Audrey Carpenter, 5, play with toy horses on the floor of the home office of their mother, Tara Carpenter, in Haymarket, Va., Friday, Jan. 28, 2022. Alyssa has had COVID-19 twice and suffers long-term symptoms. She and her two sisters are part of a NIH-funded multi-year study at Children's National Hospital to look at impacts of COVID-19 on children's physical health and quality of life. (AP Photo/Carolyn Kaster)

By COLLEEN LONG and CAROLYN KASTER-Associated Press

WASHINGTON (AP) — Eight-year-old Brooklynn Chiles fidgets on the hospital bed as she waits for the nurse at Children’s National Hospital. The white paper beneath her crinkles as she shifts to look at the medical objects in the room. She’s had coronavirus three times, and no one can figure out why.

Brooklynn’s lucky, sort of. Each time she has tested positive, she has suffered no obvious symptoms. But her dad, Rodney, caught the virus — possibly from her — when she was positive back in September, and he died from it.

Her mom, Danielle, is dreading a next bout, fearing her daughter could become gravely ill even though she’s been vaccinated.

“Every time, I think: Am I going to go through this with her, too?” she said, sitting on a plastic chair wedged in the corner. “Is this the moment where I lose everyone?”

Among the puzzling outcomes of the coronavirus, which has killed more than 6 million people worldwide since it first emerged in 2019, are the symptoms suffered by children.

More than 12.7 million children in the U.S. alone have tested positive for COVID-19 since the pandemic began, according to the American Academy of Pediatrics. Generally, the virus doesn’t hit kids as severely as adults.

But, as with some adults, there are still bizarre outcomes. Some youngsters suffer unexplained symptoms long after the virus is gone, what’s often called long COVID. Others get reinfected. Some seem to recover fine, only to be struck later by a mysterious condition that causes severe organ inflammation.

And all that can come on top of grieving for loved ones killed by the virus and other interruptions to a normal childhood.