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We Know Kids
The Willows Pediatrics Blog

Pediatric Multisystem Inflammatory Syndrome: What Parents Should Know

You may have seen recent news reports about a syndrome affecting kids during the COVID-19 pandemic called Pediatric Multisystem Inflammatory Syndrome. This new syndrome has only been recently detected and is still being investigated. We know some of these reports can be scary so we would like to try to separate fact from fiction and give you clear information.

The first reports about this syndrome came out of the United Kingdom at the end of April. Last week, the first U.S. cases were reported in New York City. Today, cases have been reported in Connecticut. While this new syndrome is serious, the good news is that the number of children affected so far is very small compared to the staggering number of people affected by COVID-19.

What is Pediatric Multisystem Inflammatory Syndrome?

This syndrome is a new health condition in which children who have had the coronavirus and recovered from it develop an excessive immune response that causes significant inflammation to their organs. Children with this syndrome have prolonged fever (greater than 5 days), their blood work shows inflammation, and they present with certain clinical findings such as:

  • abdominal pain
  • eye redness
  • enlarged lymph nodes or glands on one side of the neck
  • skin rash
  • red, cracked lips or a red “strawberry” tongue
  • swollen hands or feet

IMPORTANT: Children with this syndrome will look very ill. They will not bounce back from their fever with Tylenol or ibuprofen. They will have persistent symptoms over several days. This is NOT something you can easily miss.

What should I do if I think my child has this new syndrome?

If you are concerned that your child meets these criteria, but she only has mild symptoms, please call our office. If your child is very ill and it is an emergency, as always, please call 911.

If my child was sick before (either with a positive COVID test or not) should I get my child checked?

At this time, if your child has recovered from a prior illness and is doing well, there is no recommendation to do so. If your child becomes ill and has a high fever for several days in a row please call our office so we can evaluate him or her.

What is Kawasaki Disease and is it related?

Kawasaki Disease is a rare inflammatory disease that only occurs in children. It is still unclear how or if Kawasaki Disease and COVID-19 are related but they have similar symptoms and presentations.

Kawasaki Disease existed long before COVID-19, and we are not sure what causes the immune systems in these children to go into overdrive. In Kawasaki’s Disease, children present with a prolonged fever, some clinical symptoms (rash, strawberry tongue, swollen lymph nodes, swelling of hands and feet) and signs of inflammation throughout the body eventually including swelling of the blood vessels of the heart. Typically, there are about 3,000 cases per year in the United States. This is an easily treatable condition and typically children do not have long-term complications.

Is there treatment for Pediatric Multisystem Inflammatory Syndrome?

Doctors are working hard to determine the best treatment. If we suspect your child has this syndrome, we would likely direct you to a hospital or emergency room for evaluation. Patients with Kawasaki Disease or Pediatric Multisystem Inflammatory Syndrome need monitoring and specialist evaluation. Treatments for Kawasaki Disease are being tried for patients with this new syndrome. These treatments include supplemental doses of immunoglobulin (intravenous immunoglobulin, IVIG) and steroids. Rarely, children have gotten very sick and needed to be in an intensive care unit for fluids, medications for blood pressure, and assistance with breathing. While this new disease is serious, remember that children with this syndrome will look very ill and that this is NOT something you can easily miss.