As COVID-19 has spread throughout the country, public health officials have discovered an alarming increase in the incidence of a rare but serious inflammatory disease that affects children.
Called multisystem inflammatory syndrome in children, or MIS-C, the condition causes inflammation in different parts of the body such as the heart, lungs, kidneys, brain, skin, eyes and gastrointestinal organs. Symptoms can include fever, abdominal pain, vomiting, diarrhea, neck pain, rash, swollen feet, rapid heartbeat, bloodshot eyes, a red tongue and fatigue.
Most children recover with medical intervention, though the condition can be fatal.
“We don’t know why certain children develop MIS-C while others do not, but it appears to be a unique immune response that can develop after a COVID-19 infection or an exposure to the illness,” says Dr. Lucretia Carter, a pediatrician with Tidelands Health Pediatrics in Myrtle Beach. “Although fatalities are rare, MIS-C can become quite severe and typically requires hospitalization.”
As of Wednesday, Aug. 5, seven children in South Carolina have been diagnosed with the condition, according to the South Carolina Department of Health and Environmental Control. At least 342 cases have identified across the country, with six reported deaths.
Most reported cases have occurred children between the ages of 1 and 14, with an average age of 8, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.
The condition is similar to Kawasaki disease, another childhood immune response syndrome, and is typically treated much the same way using medications to suppress the overreactive immune system and reduce inflammation.
“If your child shows any signs or symptoms of MIS-C, contact your physician or another qualified medical professional immediately,” Dr. Carter says. “If he or she develops emergency symptoms such as trouble breathing, pain or pressure in the chest that does not go away, new confusion, inability to wake up or stay awake, bluish lips or face or severe abdominal pain, call 911 immediately.”
The best way to protect children from MIS-C is to take everyday steps to limit their risk of COVID-19 infection, according to the CDC.
- Clean hands often with soap and water or an alcohol-based hand sanitizer.
- Avoid people who are sick.
- Maintain a distance of at least 6 feet between your children and other people
- Have children ages 2 and older wear a cloth face mask in places where social distancing is difficult.
- Encourage your child to avoid touching his or her eyes and nose.
- Clean and disinfect high-touch surfaces daily in the home.
- Frequently launder items in the home such as plush toys and blankets.
- Limit in-person playtime with other children, and connect virtually if possible
“Have an age-appropriate discussion with your child so he or she understands why it’s important to take precautions,” says Dr. Carter, a mother of three children herself. “Teaching children about the things they can do to keep themselves healthy and well is important because it will empower and reassure them during these uncertain times.”
Dr. Lucretia Carter
Pediatrician, Tidelands Health Pediatrics
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Dr. Lucretia Carter is a pediatrician who practices at Tidelands Health Pediatrics in Myrtle Beach.Learn More
Howard University College of Medicine
Albert Einstein Medical Center
- American Board of Pediatrics
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Dr. Lucretia Carter
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Dr. Lucretia Carter is a pediatrician who practices at Tidelands Health Pediatrics in Myrtle Beach.