When I first heard the news about COVID-19, I was relieved as both a parent and pediatrician that it seemed unlikely to seriously affect children. However, more recently in both the literature and among colleagues, I began hearing about an uncommon but serious inflammatory disorder affecting some children with COVID-19. The American Academy of Pediatrics and the Centers for Disease Control are calling this "Multi-System Inflammatory Syndrome in Children," or MIS-C.
My goal in writing today is to dispel myths about this new manifestation of the illness, provide helpful steps families can take to protect their kids from COVID-19, and assure that medical providers are aware of this new subset of COVID-19 and taking appropriate steps to keep your children safe.
Symptoms of MIS-C include inflammation in the skin and eyes, irritability and sluggishness, along with fever, rash, swollen lymph nodes, and abdominal pain. The symptoms are similar to a rare childhood illness called Kawasaki disease, which causes inflammation of the blood vessels and primarily affects children under 5 years of age.
There is very little known about MIS-C due to the small number of cases around the country. However, the medical community is monitoring this new syndrome very closely to learn all they can about it. I would like to emphasize that this condition is very rare and occurs a few weeks after a child has already recovered from COVID-19 infection.
As we have throughout the pandemic, pediatricians are urging families to take precautions to prevent their exposure to COVID-19. This includes reducing close contact with others by staying home as much as possible and avoiding congregating in groups. Anyone over the age of 2 should wear a mask when outside of the home.
Wash your hands and your child's with soap and water for at least 20 seconds and sanitize frequently touched surfaces at least twice per day. Avoid touching your face and teach children to cough and sneeze into a tissue or their elbow. Aim to wash and dry plush toys about once a week.
There are special precautions to take if someone in your household is ill. See https://www.cdc.gov/coronavirus/2019-ncov/if-you-are-sick/care-for-someone.html for details.
The American Academy of Pediatrics recommends creating a healthy routine for your children that includes balanced meals, learning at home, exercise, social connection (Facetime, videochat, and in person with household), and adequate rest. This will help your children remain both physically and mentally healthy during this stressful time. Continue to reassure your children that the medical community is working hard to keep them safe during this time. Be sure to monitor their media consumption, watch for signs of anxiety, and be a good role model in regards to COVID-19 safety measures.
Call your pediatrician if you have any concerns about your children's health, including symptoms of COVID-19 or MIS-C listed above. There are still important reasons to bring your child physically into the office such as immunizations, developmental checks, and growth monitoring. We would like to reassure you that we are taking proper steps to allow your children to safely receive care at our offices.
More detailed information about keeping your child healthy is available at https://www.cdc.gov/coronavirus/2019-ncov/daily-life-coping/children.html. For information about obtaining healthy food or other basic needs for your family, dial 2-1-1.
Dr. Meghan Gunn is the medical director of SVMC Pediatrics.