What is MIS-C? And do I need to be worried about it?

Celia Spell
May 29, 2020
Elizabeth Mack
Elizabeth Mack, M.D., M.S.

COVID-19 has taken the world by storm and as the state begins to open back up, physicians are seeing a new Kawasaki-like syndrome in children. It is currently unclear if it associated with children who have already been diagnosed with COVID-19, but parents and physicians alike are worried about it.

Multisystem inflammatory syndrome in children, or MIS-C, affects organs and blood vessels, while COVID-19 affects respiration. Similar to Kawasaki disease which causes inflamed blood vessels in children, MIS-C can lead to heart damage. Symptoms of MIS-C include prolonged fever and abdominal pain as well as diarrhea, vomiting and a possible rash. Many children also have cracked red lips and inflammation in their eyes, which can look like pink eye.

But unlike COVID-19, MIS-C is not thought to be contagious. It is also considered rare.

According to Elizabeth Mack, M.D., M.S., the chief of the Division of Pediatric Critical Care at MUSC, there have not been any cases in Charleston yet. At least none that have needed hospital care. “This is another manifestation of COVID-19 that can come after the respiratory illness,” Mack said. “We just want people to be on the lookout.”

Scientists are currently looking into the connection between COVID-19 and MIS-C as all children with MIS-C have not been previously diagnosed with COVID-19 or don’t present antibodies against COVID-19. And all children who have been diagnosed with COVID-19 do not necessarily then have the inflammatory syndrome afterwards.

MIS-C, also known as PMIS, affects children but does not seem to affect babies, toddlers or teenagers. Babies are protected by the immune system of their mother, and teenagers have started to develop an adult immune system, which protects them as well.

During this new and developing syndrome, a child’s immune and inflammatory responses do not react appropriately. There currently isn’t a cure, but there are treatment options that include supportive care as well as some immune therapies that have proven successful in lessening the body’s immune response.

Mack says that while we don’t know why some children develop MIS-C and others do not, it is still considered rare. According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, 1.7% of positive COVID-19 cases in the United States have been in children under 18 years of age.

“One thing we do know,” said Mack. “Is that the prevalence of COVID-19 among children in South Carolina has been very low at this point, thankfully.” She also advises everyone to continue following social distancing protocols and practicing good hygiene as methods of prevention.

Mack also encourages parents to not fear doctor’s offices and to see a physician if their child presents with any of the symptoms of COVID-19 or MIS-C. To learn more about MUSC Health is keeping their patients safe during this time, read our earlier blog post.

About the Author

Celia Spell
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Keywords: Childrens Health, COVID-19