Opinion: The Novel Coronavirus and its Impact on Children

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There are growing fears that COVID-19 is now linked to a syndrome in children who may be vulnerable to the virus and can become infected with minor irritants such as a rash, to more serious health issues such as cardiac arrest.

It’s called Multi-System Inflammatory Syndrome in Children (MIS-C).

According to HealthyChildren.org, the Center for Disease Control and Prevention identified a correlation between COVID-19 and MIS-C as up to half did not test positive for the virus. Doctors and scientists around the world are working to understand the syndrome and how best to treat it.

Parents should be aware that most children are not affected by the coronavirus, and reports of children who become seriously ill are rare and unusual cases. Presently, the best thing parents can do to protect their child is to call their pediatrician if they have any concerns about their child’s health.

Some of the symptoms to look for in MIS-C are: a fever lasting more than 24 hours; abdominal pain, diarrhea or vomiting; rash or changes in skin color; trouble breathing; and mental confusion or excessively sleepy. MIS-C affects older children, median age 9 to 11.

Dr. Omoniyi Omotoso, Lifelong Pediatrics clinical lead in Richmond, Calif. noted that there have been cases in Europe, and this past month, case reports in New York City of MIS-C during the ongoing COVID-19 pandemic. “MIS-C is a severe inflammatory process that overwhelms the child’s body leading to shock and often affecting the heart and other organs,” said Omotoso.

“Fortunately, with the strict adherence to the Shelter-in-Place policy in the Bay Area, we have flattened the curve at present and seen few cases of symptomatic pediatric (COVID-19) cases. And not surprisingly, MIS-C has been rare thus far with one confirmed case per California Public Health Dept.”

“Parents should seek medical attention if their child has these red flags such as persistent fever lasting four to five days, breathing difficulty, or rashes associated with swelling of hands and/or feet.”

MIS-C has been compared to another rare childhood condition called Kawasaki disease because it shares some of the same symptoms. Kawasaki disease is the leading cause of acquired heart disease in infants and young children under the age of five.

The condition causes inflammation in the blood vessels, and the symptoms can be severe. In addition to several days of fever, children with Kawasaki disease may develop symptoms such as rash, swollen neck glands, swollen hands and feet, and red eyes, lips and tongue.

Kawasaki disease is not contagious. It does not spread among family members or children in child care centers. The disease occurs more frequently in children of Asian or Pacific Island ancestry.  However, it can affect people in all racial and ethnic groups.

While MIS-C may sound frightening, the American Academy of Pediatrics reminds parents that the condition is still very rare. It is important, however, to call your pediatrician with any questions or concerns about your child. Always contact your pediatrician’s office for checkups, vaccines, or if your child is sick.

Children are presenting with MIS-C four to six weeks after peak COVID-19 infection rates. So, doctors say the best thing you can do for your family is to continue following recommendations about social distancing, masks, and hygiene, to avoid contracting COVID-19 in the first place.

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