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Purdue Extension: Expert Resources for COVID-19

Health & Wellness Column: What is Multisystem Inflammatory Syndrome in Children (MIS-C)?

July 13, 2020
Health & Wellness Column

Virginia Aparicio
Extension Educator – Health & Human Sciences
Purdue Extension Elkhart County
574-533-0554, vaparici@purdue.edu


What is Multisystem Inflammatory Syndrome in Children (MIS-C)?

We know children can become ill with COVID-19, but there have been fewer cases of COVID-19 among children in comparison with adults. According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, around 2% of the United States confirmed cases of COVID-19 were among people less than 18. The majority of the kids who get the virus appear to have mild or no symptoms. Recently, however, hospitals have reported an increase in the number of cases of children who have developed a new multi-system inflammatory condition.

There have been cases where a child who had or was exposed to COVID-19 develops a condition called Multisystem Inflammatory Syndrome in Children (MIS-C). MIS-C is a newly recognized syndrome that affects kids around the ages of 2-15 and causes inflammation in the body. The cause of MIS-C is unknown, but many children with MIS-C have been associated with COVID-19. MIS-C is a rare, but serious condition. However, in most cases, children get better with timely medical care. If left untreated, it can lead to severe complications.

Children with MIS-C develop an immune response that can cause inflammation in several organs and systems such as the heart, lungs, kidneys, brain, skin, eyes or gastrointestinal organs. In these cases, children can start having respiratory support issues, chest pain and trouble breathing requiring hospitalization.

Some of the common MIS-C symptoms include prolonged fever, abdominal (gut) pain, vomiting, diarrhea, neck pain, a red rash, bloodshot eyes, swollen hands or feet and excessive tiredness. Call your healthcare provider if you have concerns about COVID-19 or MIS-C or if your child has a fever for longer than 24 hours and shows at least one of the mentioned symptoms. If your child has trouble breathing, prolonged pain or pressure in the chest, new confusion, inability to wake or stay awake, bluish face or lips or severe abdominal pain, they need to go to the ER right away.

MIS-C shares similarities to Kawasaki disease, and many of the symptoms for MIS-C and Kawasaki disease seem to overlap. Kawasaki disease is also an inflammatory disease and causes inflammation of the blood vessels, specifically the coronary arteries. Kawasaki disease typically affects children younger than 5. Kawasaki disease is also a rare disease, but pediatricians are more familiar with identifying and treating this condition. Both Kawasaki disease and MIS-C can cause prolonged fever, irritation and inflammation of the body that is uncomfortable. Children diagnosed with Kawasaki disease or MIS-C often need to be hospitalized. Neither condition is contagious.

Providers diagnose MIS-C using various diagnostic tests including blood tests, chest x-rays, ultrasound of the heart and abdomen and other tests that measure heart function. Treatment often involves different types of therapies aimed at reducing inflammation. Healthcare providers rely on anti-inflammatory medications that help control inflammation in the body and prevent permanent damage.

The best way to protect your child from getting MIS-C is to make sure you and your child follow COVID-19 prevention measures and avoid exposure to the COVID-19 virus. This includes keeping your hands clean and avoiding people who are sick, cleaning and disinfecting high-touch surfaces in your home, practicing social distancing if outside the home and have anyone two years and older wear a cloth face covering. As medical experts continue to gather information on MIS-C, they will learn more about what causes the condition and ways to improve diagnosis and treatment outcomes for children. ###

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