What is MIS-C?

Oct 29, 2020 | COVID-19

With the international spread of COVID-19, we started asking questions we never expected to have. What is COVID-19? How is it spread? Who is the most vulnerable? How can we slow the spread?

Now, as we approach the end of 2020, we can answer all of these questions, but as complications with the coronavirus arise, so do more questions. One common and concerning question has been, what is multisystem inflammatory syndrome in children (MIS-C)? This year, more than two dozen kids in South Carolina developed the rare complication of COVID-19, which we are still learning about.

So, what is MIS-C?

Multisystem inflammatory syndrome in children is a condition where different body parts can become inflamed including the heart, lungs, kidneys, brain, skin, eyes and/or gastrointestinal organs. It is similar to Kawasaki disease, which causes inflamed blood vessels in children. For some reason in response to a prior infection with the virus that causes COVID-19, some children’s immune systems go haywire causing severe illness.

The most common symptom is a prolonged fever lasting a few days. Other symptoms may include rash, diarrhea and vomiting. Long-term symptoms like heart problems may also arise, though they are not common. Please note that not all children who contract MIS-C experience the same symptoms.

What should I look out for?

As we approach cold and flu season, it’s important to pay extra attention to symptoms your child experiences. The three main symptoms to watch for are prolonged fever, appearing fatigued and ill, or loss of appetite or not drinking enough fluids. Symptoms can worsen quickly, so seek timely medical attention if you notice anything concerning.

Is there a treatment?

Once a child is diagnosed with MIS-C, doctors can treat the condition with anti-inflammatory therapies. MUSC Children’s Health is also testing a possible treatment for MIS-C called remestemcel-L, which uses cells from bone marrow of healthy donors that have been expanded in a lab to try to combat the condition’s harmful response.

Slow the Spread

We still do not know the exact cause of MIS-C, but we do know it is a complication of COVID-19. The best way to prevent illness is to be diligent in slowing the spread of COVID-19 and other seasonal illnesses. I encourage everyone to continue following physical distancing protocols, practicing good hygiene and wearing your mask in public spaces.

Elizabeth H. Mack, M.D., M.S.

Elizabeth H. Mack, M.D., M.S.

Medical Director, Children’s Quality & Safety / MUSC Health

Dr. Mack is also the Division Chief for Pediatric Critical Care Medicine. She has spoken about MIS-C numerous times since the onset of the pandemic.

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