The Inflammatory Syndrome Impacting COVID-19 Kids


Researchers and health officials are working quickly to study a new inflammatory health condition that’s impacting kids who’ve had coronavirus. In parts of the US and Europe, a small but increasing number of children have come down with symptoms similar to Kawasaki disease or toxic shock. Doctors have determined it’s a brand new condition, which they’ve officially dubbed “paediatric multisystem inflammatory syndrome.” It’s causing kids to develop fevers, as well as inflammation of the skin, blood vessels, and heart. The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention is planning to issue a warning to doctors about the mysterious inflammatory disease, according to CBS News. Here’s what we know so far about the condition, and what parents should look out for.

What are the symptoms parents should watch for?

The overwhelming hallmark of this syndrome is a persistent fever, typically greater than 102 degrees fahrenheit, explains Tara Greenhow, MD, a paediatric infectious disease physician at Kaiser Permanente in San Francisco.

Kids with paediatric multisystem inflammatory syndrome (PMIS) are also experiencing abdominal pain, diarrhoea, vomiting, and nausea. Some will have rash, a strawberry tongue that’s red and enlarged, and swollen hands. They also might present with red eyes due to blood vessel inflammation, Greenhow says. Like Kawasaki disease, these issues can impact a child’s heart if untreated. (Unlike Kawasaki disease, PMIS doesn’t seem to induce coronary aneurysms when it’s left untreated, Dr Steven Kernie, chief of paediatric critical care medicine at Columbia University and NewYork-Presbyterian Morgan Stanley Children’s Hospital, told The New York Times.) PMIS has also sent some children into a certain kind of toxic shock that leads to low blood pressure, Kernie explained.

How is it related to COVID-19?

You may find these symptoms surprising, because they’re not consistent with what you’d commonly experience with COVID-19, including shortness of breath and a cough. But Greenhow says most data is showing that this syndrome is hitting kids after they’re already recovered from the coronavirus. “Data that’s coming out of Europe is highly suggestive that these cases follow the initial [coronavirus] infection, which you can determine by checking for antibodies in the child’s blood,” she says. “The current thought is that it’s a hyper-inflammation following the acute infection.” It’s unclear how long after a COVID-19 infection PMIS symptoms will show up, and some kids are testing positive while they’re still infected.

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