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Coronavirus News: Multisystem Inflammatory Syndrome in Children With COVID-19
How Does COVID-19 Usually Affect Children?
Children can get the coronavirus and may exhibit its usual symptoms such as:
- Shortness of breath
- Sore throat
- Body ache
- Loss of smell
- Loss of taste
However, earlier trends showed that older adults and individuals with underlying medical issues are more likely to develop severe complications like:
- Pneumonia – a condition where the lungs are filled with fluid making it difficult to breathe.
- Acute Respiratory Distress Syndrome – a condition where the lungs are severely damaged, and fluid begin to enter the lungs.
- Cardiovascular shock – a condition where the heart is unable to pump enough blood and oxygen to vital organs
- Cardiovascular complications – this includes arrhythmias, heart damage, and heart attack.
On May 15, 2020, the World Health Organization released a scientific brief about a potential new complication of COVID-19: multisystem inflammatory syndrome. Unlike the other COVID-19 complications, this one affects children and teenagers.
What Is Multisystem Inflammatory Syndrome in Children (MIS-C)?
MIS-C is also known as a pediatric multisystem inflammatory syndrome (PMIS). Since April 2020, clusters of MIS-C cases have been reported in the United Kingdom, Italy, and in the United States.
Initially, doctors mistook MIS-C for Kawasaki disease.
What is Kawasaki disease? It’s a serious inflammatory condition that affects children. It causes swelling in the walls of arteries, which can eventually hamper cardiovascular functioning.
Compared to Kawasaki disease, MIS-C usually progresses at a quicker pace. In MIS-C, the inflammation isn’t limited to the arteries; it can also affect the kidneys, brain, skin, eyes, digestive system, and heart.
MIS-C symptoms include:
- Bloodshot eyes
- Abdominal pain
- Neck pain
- Skin color changes
- Confusion or irritability
- Swollen lymph nodes
- Cracked lips or tongue
MIS-C is also thought of as a post-infectious syndrome. MIS-C symptoms usually occur two to six weeks after the infection.
In fact, most parents report that their children seemed well and healthy before the onset of symptoms. Unfortunately, doctors are still unsure of MIS-C’s long-term effects.
What Is the Link Between COVID-19 and MIS-C?
Doctors and researchers don’t have enough information to explain the COVID-19 and MIS-C link. They believe that they are related because most of the children with MIS-C tested positive for COVID-19 or have been exposed to people who had COVID-19.
There isn’t enough information to make a causal conclusion, but there are a few prevailing hypotheses:
- MIS-C may not be directly caused by the virus, but it may be the body’s delayed immune response to the infection. The body’s immune system goes into overdrive, which causes inflammation.
- The coronavirus antibodies may trigger the immune response.
- Specific genetic factors may make some children more susceptible to MIS-C.
The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) works with doctors and public health agencies to track cases so that they can learn more about the syndrome. Together, these agencies are trying to figure out how the syndrome progresses and what makes some children more susceptible to it.
It’s important to note that most children who are infected with COVID-19 do not develop MIS-C. In fact, most children with COVID-19 only exhibit mild symptoms or are even asymptomatic.
What Should Parents Do if They Suspect MIS-C?
MIS-C symptoms will vary with each child. But if parents believe that their child may have MIS-C, it’s essential that they consult their doctors immediately.
How Do Doctors Treat MIS-C?
Most doctors will run tests to rule out other possible causes of the symptoms. These tests may include a blood test, x-ray, or ultrasounds (heart or abdomen).
MIS-C treatment may involve:
- Intravenous immunoglobulin (same therapy for Kawasaki disease)
- Blood thinners like aspirin
- Anti-inflammatory drugs like steroids
MIS-C is not contagious, but because of its association with the coronavirus, most hospitals will implement infection control protocols throughout treatment.
Many of the children with MIS-C will need to be admitted to a hospital for close observation. Some may also require intensive care. Most of the children respond well to the treatment for MIS-C and seem to be recovering well.
How Can You Prevent MIS-C?
The best way to prevent MIS-C is to limit your child’s exposure to COVID-19. The CDC recommends the steps to avoid infection:
- Wash hands regularly – Wash your hands with water and soap for at least 20 seconds. Use an alcohol-based skin sanitizer in the absence of water.
- Avoid sick people – If it’s possible, maintain a safe distance between people who are coughing or sneezing.
- Practice social distancing – Stay at least 6 feet away from people you don’t live with.
- Wear masks – Children two years old and older can wear face masks that cover their mouths and nose (especially in places where it isn’t easy to practice social distancing).
- Disinfect surfaces at home regularly – Prioritize high-touch surfaces in common areas
- Do the laundry regularly – If it’s possible, use the warm setting on the washing machine. Wash clothes and washing machine-safe toys.
There’s a lot we don’t know about the coronavirus, but researchers and doctors are working tirelessly to find the answers. In the meantime, it’s important to stay safe and vigilant.
If you think you or your child are coming down with something, it’s best to consult a doctor immediately. The good news is that you don’t have to leave the comfort and safety of your home to do this. Contact Stream MD to learn more about their consultation options.
Do you have any questions about this new COVID-19 complication in children? Ask us in the comments section below.