The newest curve ball in what we thought we knew about COVID-19 involves children experiencing some surprising symptoms. Parentology recently reported about COVID-19 being the cause of strokes in young adults. Now, severe symptoms of a mystery syndrome — possibly coronavirus related — are being seen in children as young as two years old.
Initially, it was reported that children were at low risk of getting the disease. If they did get it, they tended to have mild symptoms. The most significant concern with children was their ability to infect someone who was more at risk of dying from the illness.
That analysis seems to be changing.
Sixty-four children in New York City developed what is described by the New York City’s Health Department as a “multi-system inflammatory syndrome.” The children were between the ages of two and fifteen. Similar cases have also been reported in the UK and Europe as well as elsewhere in the United States.
The syndrome has affected different organ systems. Symptoms have been described as mimicking Kawasaki disease and toxic shock. They have included persistent fever, low blood pressure, swollen feet, pink eye, and rashes. Gastrointestinal symptoms have frequently been reported, including abdominal pain, vomiting, and diarrhea. The children’s lab values for inflammatory markers have been elevated, and some have had inflamed arteries in their hearts.
Respiratory problems such as a cough or shortness of breath were the first defining symptoms of COVID-19. However, less than half of the children with the mysterious syndrome experienced any respiratory symptoms. Yet, five of them did have breathing difficulties that were severe enough to require them to be put on ventilators.
While none of these children in New York have died, there have been pediatric deaths as a result of COVID-19.
One confounding factor of the mysterious syndrome? While most of the children tested positive for COVID-19 or the antibodies, some of them came up negative for both.
It is possible there have been more cases. The NYC Health Alert states, “Only severe cases may have been recognized at this time.” Pediatricians and emergency room physicians who suspect they have a patient with the mystery syndrome are being urged to refer patients to pediatric infectious disease specialists.
While the number of cases has been low, the increased reporting on the mystery syndrome may result in other cases being given a new look at what was going on. Those children could then be tested for COVID-19 antibodies.
One concern that has been expressed is that parents with ill children have been reluctant to take them to the hospital out of fear that this could expose them to COVID-19. However, this syndrome has progressed rapidly in some patients. Parents are being advised to call their child’s health care provider immediately if they develop a fever, rash, or abdominal symptoms.
Coronavirus Children Syndrome — Sources
New York City Health Department – 2020 Health Alert #13: Pediatric Multi-System Inflammatory Syndrome Potentially Associated with COVID-19