For the past two years, one infectious illness has been clouding the domain of healthcare worldwide is COVID-19. Coronavirus disease, triggered by the SARS-CoV-2 viral vector, is a contagious sickness manifesting in the upper respiratory tract, that continues to infect people around the world even today, what with the emergence of the new omicron variant. However, one very worrisome factor is that it even affects the younger population who have significantly less comorbidities, including children.
Added to the fact that children’s immune systems fully develop only at around 7 – 8 years of age and tend to be vulnerable to severe viral infections, the extent of COVID-19 vaccine coverage for the younger populace varies widely across the globe. While European nations of Germany, Spain, Denmark, as well as the USA and Australia have already started administering the COVID-19 vaccine for children aged 5 and above, many countries including India are yet to begin the inoculation drive for younger children, with only the teenage populace aged 15 and older eligible to get jabbed as of now.
Nevertheless, whether children have taken both doses of the COVID-19 vaccine or are yet to get immunised, they can still contract coronavirus infection. While in most instances, COVID-19 presents with only mild to moderate symptoms in children, in rare cases, severe viral illness progresses to a grave complication termed as Multisystem Inflammatory Syndrome In Children (MIS-C). Though paediatric doctors around the world have established that COVID-positive children with MIS-C get better with proper and timely medical care, the inflammatory syndrome still induces serious signs of breathing difficulty, chest pain and dizziness. It is thus crucial to understand the signs of MIS-C and seek prompt medical treatment if children exhibit severe symptoms of COVID-19.
What Is Multisystem Inflammatory Syndrome In Children?
Multisystem Inflammatory Syndrome in Children, abbreviated as MIS-C, is not a disease by itself, but refers to a syndrome - a cluster of signs and symptoms, that arises in children severely affected by COVID-19. It is a condition witnessed in children already sick with COVID-19, wherein they develop widespread inflammation in various organs within the system, including the heart, lungs, skin, kidneys, brain, eyes, blood vessels and gastrointestinal parts of the stomach, intestines.
MIS-C is very rare in children with COVID-19 and this syndrome is still being studied by doctors and medical researchers around the world, as its exact underlying causes and risk factors are still yet to be determined.
What Are The Symptoms Of MIS-C?
MIS-C arises in the advanced stages of coronavirus infection in children and it is hence key to monitor the signs exhibited by affected young individuals, as well as their vitals regularly. COVID-19 presents with the same set of typical indications in children as it does in adults and the elderly. These comprise hampered respiratory functions, accompanied by incessant coughing, fever, sore throat, runny nose, sneezing, besides body pain, headaches, loss of sense of smell, taste and fatigue.
In children with COVID-19, MIS-C presents numerous symptoms, such as:
- High fever that persists for more than 24 hours
- Nausea and vomiting
- Stomach pain
- Rashes in the skin
- Enlarged/swollen lymph nodes
- Feeling dizzy with pounding headaches
- Abnormally fast heartbeat
- Shortness of breath, gasping
- Reddening of the eyes
- Swelling in the hands and feet
While it is pivotal to watch out for these signs in children and consult with a healthcare professional, certain grave warning signs of COVID-19 and MIS-C in children require emergency medical treatment. These comprise:
- Severe stomach pain
- Breathing distress
- Mental confusion and brain fog
- Extreme exhaustion, being unable to stay awake
- Prominent pale blue or grey discolouration in the skin, nails, lips
How Is MIS-C Treated?
After confirming COVID-19 with a RT-PCR test and determining the extent of inflammation and tissue damage through blood tests to look for inflammatory markers, urine analyses, as well as imaging tests of X-rays, CT scans, ultrasounds, ECGs, treatment for COVID-infected children with MIS-C depends on the severity of symptoms.
Affected children are hospitalised, with their vitals of heart rate, blood pressure, oxygen saturation being monitored routinely, with ample fluids being given if dehydration also accompanies fever and other symptoms. The World Health Organisation recommends the use of corticosteroids in hospitalized children (aged 0-18 years) with MIS-C, in addition to supportive treatment and care. Oxygen is also provided by means of ventilators in instances of severe breathing difficulty, apart from anti-hypertensive medications to lower blood pressure and drugs to prevent blood clots in the system.
Children with MIS-C complications alongside COVID-19 recover completely after timely medical treatment and support, with inflammation in the various tissues, organs reducing considerably, overcoming viral infection and regaining normal bodily functions.