Experts concerned about rare, devastating coronavirus (COVID-19) complications in children

Some children suffering devastating complications from COVID-19

DETROIT – One of the most encouraging early beliefs about the coronavirus (COVID-19) was that it seemed to have little affect on children, but we’ve since learned that’s not always the case.

It’s still believed that most children with the coronavirus are either asymptomatic or have minor symptoms. But because of that, few children are tested, so we really don’t know how many are getting infected.

There’s also growing concern that some children are suffering rare, but devastating complications. Experts are trying to find answers.

A new study by the National Institutes of Health is designed to determine how the coronavirus is truly affecting children.

“We’d all like to know why children don’t get sick with the virus,” said Dr. Tiny Hartert, who’s leading the federal study. “Obviously, it’s very fortunate that they don’t, but it’s fascinating that they don’t, because it’s quite unusual for respiratory viruses to spare young children like this.”

The study will focus on 6,000 people from 2,000 American families.

“Do they transmit infection as effectively as we see, certainly, in adult populations?” Hartert said. “That’s definitely going to contribute to us having knowledge about whether we should reopen schools, summer camps, (allow children to) visit their grandparents.”

While children have been largely spared, there have been tragic exceptions, including 5-year-old Skylar.

Skylar was the daughter of two Detroit first responders, and she died from a rare brain complication triggered by COVID-19.

Now there’s a new warning about another rare complication called “pediatric multi-system inflammatory syndrome.” Experts have identified about 115 cases worldwide.

It makes a child’s immune system to go into overdrive, causing severe inflammation that affects the heart and other organs. It can send the body into a state of shock and cause organ failure.

Symptoms to watch out for include a persistent fever, rash, red irritated eyes, abdominal pain, diarrhea and vomiting.

This syndrome appears to be very rare in children. Researchers hope to learn more about it from reported cases in Europe and New York.

It’s not clear that the syndrome is caused by COVID-19 because some of the children affected have tested positive, but not all. Given the serious nature, though, doctors want to get the word out, especially at a time when parents might be reluctant to take their children to the hospital.

Experts want parents to be aware of the symptoms so they can call a pediatrician immediately if they notice them in a child. They said it needs fast attention.

About the Authors: