Immune System Attacks Body in Rare COVID-19 Reaction in Children

Kids and COVID-19
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Until a few weeks ago, Dr. Lucia Benzoni thought children had “gotten away scot-free” and largely avoided serious infection with COVID-19, but recent outbreaks of a related inflammatory disease have her thinking otherwise.

Dr. Benzoni, a pediatrician with the Hartford HealthCare Medical Group in Litchfield, said there’s been a surge nationally of young patients with symptoms similar to Kawasaki disease that require advanced care in hospital intensive care units. Most cases have been in the New York City area. The two in Connecticut are not at Hartford HealthCare hospitals.

“There has been very limited (COVID) testing in children . . . they’re mostly asymptomatic,” Dr. Benzoni said, noting that the related reaction, which is affecting one in 1,000 children infected with COVID-19, happens after the virus clears. “It’s alarming, although still rare.”

Symptoms are showing in all ages of children, including teenagers, while Kawasaki Disease is more common in toddlers. She suggested parents look for:

  • High fever that lasts for more than three days.
  • Stomachache.
  • Rash.
  • Swelling hands.
  • Conjunctivitis-like eye ailment.

“It’s a cascade of symptoms where the immune system attacks the body,” she said, adding that the danger comes in when the condition advances to vasculitis or attacks the vessels of the child’s heart.

If the child is following social=distancing guidelines and staying home, Dr. Benzoni said the likely cause of the above symptoms is COVID-19.

“You have to think it’s COVID,” she said.

Concerned parents should call their child’s primary care provider and have bloodwork done to check for telling levels of inflammatory markers. The good news, she said, is that the treatments used to fight Kawasaki disease – steroids, immunoglobulin therapy and anti-inflammatory medication – work with this post-COVID condition.

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