Multisystem Inflammatory Syndrome in Children (MIS-C) is a rare but serious condition that sometimes develops in children who have or recently had COVID-19. Typically, COVID-19 affects the lungs and causes coughing and difficulty breathing. Unlike COVID-19, MIS-C can cause the heart and blood vessels to be weak.
At Children’s Health, we’ve cared for more than 100 children with MIS-C. Our experts from multiple medical specialties have streamlined our care so our teams can quickly recognize, diagnose and treat MIS-C. We also participate in national research to improve understanding of this new condition so that all children can get the right diagnosis and treatment.
MIS-C is thought to be related to the virus that causes COVID-19. In some children, the body’s immune system responds to a recent or current infection by developing high levels of inflammation. The inflammation can be an overreaction and can lead to organ damage. MIS-C can affect many organs including the heart, lungs, gut, kidneys, liver, skin, brain and eyes. When the body’s inflammation affects the heart and lungs, the organs in the body may not get the blood and oxygen they need to work well, which can be dangerous to your child’s health.
Most children diagnosed with MIS-C were previously healthy or had mild conditions like mild asthma or allergies. Many children did not show signs of COVID-19 at the time of infection, but later developed MIS-C. MIS-C can occur 2-6 weeks after infection.
MIS-C signs and symptoms can include:
The CDC has created guidelines to help doctors diagnose MIS-C. Your child must meet all these criteria for a confirmed diagnosis of MIS-C:
Your doctor will perform tests to find out if your child meets these criteria. Tests may include:
It’s not yet clear what causes MIS-C. However, evidence suggests that MIS-C occurs when a child’s immune system has an extreme response to the coronavirus SARS-CoV-2 (the virus that causes COVID-19). The immune system creates the inflammation that affects your child’s organs.
There is no cure for MIS-C, but the experts at Children’s Health have developed a comprehensive approach to treating it. Multiple specialists collaborate to provide all the care your child needs. Your child will receive care that helps support the damaged organs. Usually, children need to be in the intensive care unit (ICU). Without this care, MIS-C can be life-threatening.
Most children with MIS-C need supportive care to help their damaged organs function while their body heals. This might include:
Your child’s doctor might also use medicines that can calm an overactive immune system and reduce inflammation. These medicines have been used in other conditions with overactive immune system in children, like Kawasaki disease. They include:
Some children with MIS-C will need blood thinners because COVID-19 and related-illnesses like MIS-C can cause blood clots. Blood thinners help prevent blood clots, which can cause strokes or blockages in the lungs.
Most children with MIS-C spend 7-10 days in the hospital, including 3-4 days in the ICU, but some severe cases need more time to improve. Fortunately, most children bounce back quickly after treatment. However, they may need to limit physical activity until a heart doctor clears them.
Most kids who get MIS-C show no symptoms or mild symptoms of COVID-19. They may not be tested for COVID-19 until they develop MIS-C, which can occur a few weeks after infection.
Since MIS-C is a new condition, we don’t yet know what the long-term effects of this condition are. It is encouraging that many children recover, but we do not know if the inflammation or organ damage increases risk for other conditions later in life.
No. MIS-C is still rare but serious and can be life-threatening without care.
No, MIS-C is not contagious. It is the result of an immune system reaction to the virus that causes COVID-19. However, if the virus is still in the body at the time of MIS-C diagnosis, then the virus is contagious.