Rise in rare complication of COVID-19 in children may be linked to winter flare

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When Leslie Lubell’s 10-year-old son Max developed a persistent fever and rash earlier this month, the Cobb County, Ga. Mother said she was unaware his symptoms could be linked to Max’s exposure to the coronavirus weeks ago.

“I thought it was just a virus, or a bug, or something very basic,” Lubell says.

After Max became lethargic, Lubell says, they took him to his pediatrician, who recommended that he take Max to the emergency room.

When his blood pressure dropped, Lubell says, Max was transferred to the pediatric ICU at Children’s Healthcare Atlanta in Scottish Rite, diagnosed with Pediatric Multisystem Inflammatory Syndrome (or MIS-C.)

Children’s Healthcare infectious disease physician Dr Preeti Jaggi says he has treated around 175 children with MIS-C since last spring.

Recently, Dr Jaggi said, Children’s Healthcare has seen an increase in the number of children with MIS-C which she says is linked to the peak of COVID-19 infections during the winter break.

“We believe this disease is a post-infectious disease,” Jaggi says. “So we’re seeing more numbers coming in now, about 4-6 weeks after our community spread. ”

MIS-C is rare, she says, but it can cause severe inflammation and other complications.

So, Dr. Jaggi wants parents to know the signs.

“What you’re going to be looking for is fever. Many children have abdominal pain, which may be accompanied by vomiting or diarrhea, ”says Dr Jaggi. “A lot of them have pretty severe abdominal pain. Sometimes they may have a redness and / or rash, or they look really listless or just don’t interact in the right way. ”

Take your child to the doctor if you notice these symptoms, especially if he has been exposed to COVID-19 in the past few months to six weeks.

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Lubell says she had no idea Max’s illness had anything to do with the coronavirus.

“He had tested positive for COVID in January,” she said. “I had been sick. The only reason we got it tested was because I was sick. And I think it’s relevant because he was asymptomatic. ”

It is still unclear what causes MIS-C, but the CDC says many children who develop the syndrome have recently had the coronavirus or have been exposed to someone who has it.

“Our main concern has been heart function, as many children have decreased heart function,” says Dr. Jaggi. “But, they seem to have recovered pretty well. ”

With treatment, most children make a full recovery from MIS-C, although some may require monitoring by a cardiologist or infectious disease specialist.

Leslie Lubell has learned that her son will be fine.

“I want parents to know that if you see your child with a fever that won’t go away, terrible diarrhea and vomiting, and you start to notice a rash, you need to go to the doctor,” Lubell explains. “Don’t assume it’s just a bug. ”

The CDC advises parents to immediately contact their child’s doctor, nurse, or clinic if their child has the following symptoms of MIS-C:

  • Fever
  • Abdominal pain
  • Vomiting
  • Diarrhea
  • Neck pain
  • Eruption
  • Bloodshot eyes
  • Feeling very tired

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