Doctors at Intermountain Primary Children’s Hospital are seeing an alarming number of young patients experiencing complications due to COVID-19 infections.
One of the most severe complications is known as multisystem inflammatory syndrome in children (MIS-C), which can affect a child’s heart, lungs, kidneys, brain, skin and other organs. MIS-C typically doesn’t show up for four to six weeks until after someone is infected with COVID-19.
Since April, the pediatric hospital has seen nearly 20 cases of MIS-C, but doctors expect those numbers to rise after a sharp increase in COVID-19 infections statewide.
Jason Lake, MD, infectious disease doctor at University of Utah and Primary Children’s Hospital, said they want the public to realize that COVID does impact children and steps should be taken to reduce transmission.
“There’s this notion out there that kids can’t get really sick from COVID-19 and that’s just not true,” said Dr. Lake. “The scariest part is most kids we see with MIS-C are completely healthy with no pre-existing conditions.”
That was the case with 12-year-old Madilyn Dayton of Wyoming, who nearly died after doctors discovered she had MIS-C.
Madilyn had noticed she was getting unexplained rashes, headaches, and loss of appetite. Then on Oct. 28, 2020, she woke up and discovered she couldn’t move any part of her body and called for her mother, Marilyn.
“I knew she had been dehydrated so I thought if we go get her some IV (fluids), they’ll figure out what’s wrong with her and we’ll be home in a couple of days,” said Marilyn. “I never had any idea about what was about to happen and how serious and fast this started threatening her life.”
Madilyn’s COVID-19 test came back negative, but doctors soon discovered she had antibodies, which means she was likely infected weeks before but was asymptomatic. No one else in her family had shown any signs of infection.
After spending six days at Primary Children’s Hospital, Madilyn was able to go home but has had to stay home from school. Her doctors said she can’t play sports or other do other strenuous activity for three to six months.
Dongngan Truong, MD, pediatric cardiologist with University of Utah Health and Primary Children’s Hospital, said kids recovering from COVID-19 should avoid sports to prevent potential permanent scaring of the heart.
“There’s still a lot we don’t know about the long-term impacts of a child having MIS-C,” said Dr. Truong. “We know in the short term it normally impacts the heart with enlarged arteries, diminishing heart function, and an exaggerated immune response.”
While it is rare for a child to die from COVID-19 or MIS-C, doctors are worried about the impacts on a child’s future health. Dr. Lake notes that children can still carry and spread COVID to other people.
Experts are urging people to take precautions seriously by wearing a mask, socially distancing from other people, and washing their hands regularly.