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a mother taking temperature of her child

MIS-C and COVID-19: Rare Inflammatory Syndrome in Kids and Teens

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The U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) recently recognized a new syndrome in children and teens ages 2–15 that is associated with the coronavirus that causes COVID-19. While the syndrome is very rare, it can be dangerous.

Multisystem inflammatory syndrome in children (MIS-C) was first identified in April 2020, by doctors at children’s hospitals in the United States and the United Kingdom. The condition has also been called pediatric inflammatory multisystem syndrome (PIMS).

Kwang Sik Kim, M.D., a specialist in pediatric infectious disease at Johns Hopkins Children’s Center, provides information for parents.

Multisystem Inflammatory Syndrome in Children: What Parents Need to Know

Kim says that MIS-C or PIMS has features in common with toxic shock syndrome and an illness called Kawasaki disease, which cause inflammation of the blood vessels throughout the body.

“The inflammation can limit blood flow, damaging the heart, kidneys and other organs,” he explains. “The syndrome may be due to the body’s immune response to the presence of the SARS-CoV-2 coronavirus.”

Symptoms of Multisystem Inflammatory Syndrome in Children

Call your family doctor or pediatrician right away if your child experiences a fever of 100.4 or more, lasting more than 24 hours, and at least one of these symptoms:

  • Unusual weakness or fatigue
  • A red rash
  • Abdominal (belly) pain
  • Vomiting and diarrhea
  • Red, cracked lips
  • Red eyes
  • Swollen hands or feet

This is a newly identified condition and much more research is needed to understand it. Here’s what doctors and scientists have observed so far:

  • MIS-C is very rare, but it can be dangerous. Kids showing symptoms should be seen by a doctor.
  • The syndrome can develop within four weeks of exposure to the new coronavirus.
  • MIS-C seems to affect children age 2 to 15 and has not been reported in babies.
  • MIS-C is treatable. Medicines can control the inflammation and help avoid lasting organ damage, especially involving the heart.
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Treatment for MIS-C

“MIS-C (PIMS) is treatable if it is detected,” says Kim. Doctors can use medicines such as intravenous immunoglobulin, steroids and other anti-inflammatory drugs to reduce the inflammation and protect the heart, kidneys and other organs from lasting damage.

Multisystem Inflammatory Syndrome in Children and COVID-19 — What Is the Connection?

Doctors are urgently trying to determine how MIS-C and COVID-19 are related. There are still many questions to answer.

The CDC has confirmed that MIS-C is associated with the virus that causes COVID-19, but it can occur in children who have not had any common symptoms of COVID-19, such as shortness of breath or cough.

MIS-C — Call your Doctor If You Have Concerns

Doctors and researchers are still observing that, compared to adults, most children do not experience severe symptoms associated with new coronavirus infection and COVID-19.

But MIS-C is a newly identified condition that can affect kids in rare cases and put their health at risk, so parents are understandably concerned.

If you have any questions about your child’s health, or if something about your child seems not quite right, trust your instincts and call your doctor.

Updated May 22, 2020

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Coronavirus (COVID-19)

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