Multi-symptom Inflammatory Syndrome: What Parents Need to Know

Young child in ICU

Updated August, 10, 2020

By Dr. Tamisha Jones, Medical Director—Pediatrics

As the world continues to deal with the effects of the COVID-19 virus, there is a rare but alarming condition related to the virus that has raised concerns for both parents and doctors.  It is called multi-symptom inflammatory syndrome in children (MIS-C) and can affect young children, as well as young adults, between the ages of 2-21. The mysterious illness has stricken hundreds of children and young adults around the world, including recent reports of cases here in the Houston area.

MIS-C resembles a rare childhood condition known as Kawasaki Disease. Both share many of the same symptoms. The two conditions create extreme inflammation in the body affecting multiple organs at one time and in some cases putting extra stress on the heart.  The difference between the two conditions is that MIS-C appears to affect more teenage and early adult patients than Kawasaki and abdominal pain is also more common with MIS-C.

The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) has connected MIS-C to COVID-19 since many of the patients who have come down with the condition had the virus or had been exposed to someone with it. Since MIS-C produces an extreme inflammatory response, much like an autoimmune condition, it is the child’s immune system and not the COVID-19 virus that is attacking the body.

Since the CDC has begun collecting data on MIS-C, several trends have emerged:

  • More than 70% of reported cases have occurred in children who are Hispanic or Non-Hispanic Black.
  • Most children developed MIS-C within 2-4 weeks after infection with Sars CoV-2, the virus that causes COVID-19.
  • The median age of patients is 8-years-old with slightly more than half of reported cases affecting males.

MIS-C has resulted in the deaths of some young patients in the United States and in other countries. However, most children who have been diagnosed have gotten better with swift access to medical care. That is why the CDC recommends parents contact their child’s pediatrician immediately if they notice any the following symptoms:

  • Fever lasting over 24 hours
  • Abdominal pain, diarrhea or vomiting
  • Rashes or changes in skin color
  • Troubled breathing or chest pain
  • Confusion or extreme sleepiness
  • Redness or swelling on hands and feet

When reaching out to your child’s doctor be sure to let him or her know if your child has tested positive for COVID-19 or has been exposed to the virus.

The CDC recommends the best way to prevent MIS-C is to take the same precautions you would take to avoid contracting the coronavirus including: frequent hand washing with soap and water for at least 20 seconds, socially distancing yourself from others by at least six feet, and avoid touching your face, nose and eyes with your hands.

If your child is showing any signs of a respiratory illness, contact Legacy Community Health to make an appointment with your child’s provider at 832-548-5000 or online.