May 22, 2020, 11:13:19 AM CDT Dec 5, 2023, 2:50:54 PM CST

What parents should know about multisystem inflammatory syndrome in children (MIS-C) and COVID-19

Learn more about an inflammatory condition in children that is associated with COVID-19.

Father checking child's temperature Father checking child's temperature

What is multisystem inflammatory syndrome in children who've had COVID-19?

Multisystem inflammatory syndrome in children (MIS-C) is a rare condition that is associated with COVID-19 and usually occurs 2 to 6 weeks after a child is infected with COVID-19.MIS-C causes inflammation across multiple areas of the body including the:

  • Heart
  • Lungs
  • Kidneys
  • Brain
  • Skin
  • Eyes
  • Gastrointestinal organs

The CDC is working with partners to track cases of MIS-C and to learn more about its risk factors. More information is needed to confirm the relationship between this inflammatory condition and COVID-19 and why it affects certain children and not others.

"The condition seems to be quite uncommon," explains Jeffrey Kahn, M.D., Director of Infectious Disease at Children's Health℠ and Professor at UT Southwestern. "The CDC has created a case definition to help with our understanding of this disease in children, including why some children get MIS-C and others do not."

What are symptoms of multisystem inflammatory syndrome in children?

Father checking daughters tempChildren may develop symptoms up to 6 weeks after being infected with COVID-19 – or after being in close contact with someone who has COVID-19. The symptoms of MIS-C may vary in children, but may include:

  • Fever
  • Stomach pain
  • Vomiting
  • Diarrhea
  • Neck pain
  • Rash
  • Bloodshot eyes
  • Feeling extra tired

If your child starts to show symptoms of MIS-C, contact your pediatrician. But it's important to know that having some of these symptoms does not mean a child has MIS-C. The CDC defines MIS-C as an illness that includes fever and evidence of multi-organ inflammation. In most cases, doctors will need to do tests to diagnose the condition.

It's time to get emergency care if your child has any of these symptoms:

  • Trouble breathing
  • Persistent pain or pressure in the chest
  • New confusion
  • Trouble staying awake
  • Bluish lips or face
  • Severe belly pain

While experts don't yet understand why some children develop MIS-C, they do know that children who do develop symptoms of MIS-C may not have shown typical symptoms of COVID-19 infection, such as respiratory symptoms.

"Children who develop MIS-C don't necessarily have typical COVID-19 symptoms. Instead, they may have a persistent fever and exaggerated features of inflammation," explains Dr. Kahn.

How can I protect my child against COVID-19 and MIS-C?

Cases of MIS-C are rare in children. Most children with COVID-19 infection develop only mild symptoms and recover without complications. The best thing you can do to prevent MIS-C is to encourage your child to take steps to prevent the spread of COVID-19, including:

  • Staying up-to-date with vaccines for COVID-19
  • Practicing proper hand washing (see tips for hand washing here)
  • Not touching their face with unwashed hands
  • Avoiding close contact with people who are sick
  • Wearing a face mask if your community has a high level of COVID-19 or if your child has symptoms or tests positive for COVID-19
  • Disinfecting frequently touched objects and surfaces daily

Learn more

Children's Health is committed to remaining a trusted source of health information and care for you and your family. See more resources to keep your family healthy at the Children's Health COVID-19 hub.

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