Doctors warn about post-COVID illness affecting children

MEMPHIS, Tenn. — Doctors are now warning about a post-COVID-19 illness that could develop in children.

MIS-C stands for multi-inflammatory syndrome in children. It can appear and look like Kawasaki Disease, a form of heart disease.

The illness is developing in older children.

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According to Dr. Sandy Arnold, a pediatric infectious disease specialist at UTHSC and LeBonheur, the main symptoms of the illness are an unrelenting fever that persists for three or more days, abdominal pain, trouble breathing and bloodshot eyes.

Other symptoms include dry and cracked lips, swollen lymph glands in the neck, bumps or rash all over the body, and organ problems.

“Ultimately, if you have MIS-C you will end up being in the hospital for a few days,” Arnold said.

Right now there are 70 cases of MIS-C at LeBonheur, and one child has died.

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“They end up in the ICU. We have to put them on ventilators to help them breathe and drugs to help support their cardiovascular systems,” Arnold said.

A vast majority of children recover from the disease. Doctors say they don’t yet know what lasting effects the illness may have on the heart.

Arnold said most kids who develop MIS-C don’t even know they had COVID-19.

Doctors treat MIS-C similarly to Kawasaki Disease.

“They used the Kawasaki Disease treatment, which is intravenous immunoglobulin,” Arnold said. “That’s pooled antibodies from blood donors and put into an infusion. It’s basically an antibody protein from multiple blood donors. We also frequently use high doses of steroid medication.”

Across the U.S., there are 1,659 cases of MIS-C, and 26 kids have died from the illness.

“It’s been a very steep learning curve for every physician,” Arnold said.

Visit the CDC’s website to learn more.