The newest mystery to come from the coronavirus pandemic? Multisystem inflammatory syndrome in children (MIS-C), which has been most closely compared to Kawasaki disease. Though doctors are still trying to figure out precisely how it affects children’s bodies, it’s already landed some kids in the ER and hospital. As parents, MIS-C is most certainly on our minds now, but it’s difficult to comprehend exactly what it is, why it occurs, and what symptoms to be on the lookout for.
For starters, Michael Gayle, MD, chief of Pediatric Critical Care at Wolfson Children’s Hospital, wants parents to understand that this condition is rare, and it’s highly unlikely to affect your child.
“The first thing folks ought to know is this is a very rare condition associated with COVID-19 in children, and the survival rate is very high,” Dr. Gayle said. “So far in the U.S., there have been more than 400 cases identified, but this number will likely increase. When it comes to COVID-19 cases in children in the U.S., we’ve had thousands, so the number of MIS-C cases is low.”
If you’re worried that your child has been exposed to COVID-19, keep an eye out for the following symptoms of MIS-C, some of which are different from the coronavirus:
- Abdominal pain
- Bloodshot eyes
- Generalized skin rash, including on the lips, hands, and feet
- Signs of shock, including rapid breathing or heart rate, low blood pressure, and change in mental status
- Very high fever of 101 degrees or higher
- Vomiting or diarrhea
“A typical MIS-C patient will usually present with a very high fever, abdominal pain, and may be in a shock-like state, which COVID-19 doesn’t present with,” he explained.
MIS-C occurs after a child has been exposed to the coronavirus and has had time to develop antibodies against it. So, even if they show no symptoms of the virus at first, this related condition can appear a few weeks after the initial infection.
“When a series of MIS-C patients in New York were given the COVID-19 antibody test, about 87% of them tested positive,” said Dr. Gayle. “To be diagnosed with MIS-C, a patient would have to exhibit some of the symptoms and have a positive viral test for COVID-19, a positive antibody test for COVID-19, or a link to a known COVID-19 case.”
Also, though initial news coverage of MIS-C likened it to Kawasaki disease, they’re actually not one and the same. Like MIS-C, Kawasaki disease causes symptoms such as rash, bloodshot eyes, and vomiting, but only MIS-C is associated with exposure to COVID-19.
While COVID-19 often affects the senior population and those with weaker immune systems at higher rates, MIS-C can affect any child, even one who is otherwise completely healthy.
“No risk factors have been established,” Dr. Gayle said. “With this condition, most of the children will be between 4 and 15 years old, with most having no preexisting conditions. These are usually normal, previously healthy kids.”
If your child is showing signs of MIS-C, call your pediatrician immediately. And if your child is severely ill, take him to a Wolfson Children’s emergency room right away.
“Wolfson Children’s is specially prepared to handle this condition since it can affect multiple systems of the body and require a team of pediatric expert physicians to treat your child,” Dr. Gayle said.
At Baptist Health, we want to help keep our community informed about COVID-19. For more information, visit baptistjax.com/covid19 or wolfsonchildrens.com/covid19. For questions about COVID-19 or MIS-C symptoms, call 904.302.5050.