Children Are Being Hospitalized With A Mysterious Inflammatory Syndrome -- Possibly Linked To COVID-19

by Wendy Wisner
Children Are Being Hospitalized With Mysterious Inflammatory Syndrome: Young girl is lying in a hosp...
Sebastian Rose/Getty

One of the small bits of relief that many of us parents have experienced during the COVID-19 crisis is that, generally speaking, the virus doesn’t impact kids as harshly as it does adults. Of course, there are some exceptions, as some kids have become seriously ill with the virus, and some have even died.

But in general, kids seem to only suffer mild symptoms of COVID-19, and many who contract the virus remain asymptomatic (though, of course, they can still spread the virus to others). Personally, as worried sick about the impacts of the virus as I’ve been, the impact it might have on my children hasn’t topped my lists of fears.

However, there are some indications that the virus not only can affect kids in more serious ways, but also that it can affect kids in different ways than it can affect adults—and the thing is, because the virus is so new, we just don’t know what these “ways” may be, and how they might impact our kids.

First, there have been the cases of “COVID toes,” an itchy, inflammation of the toes that doctors suspect may possibly be tied to COVID-19. Cases of COVID toes have been identified by doctors across the world and seem to mainly affect young people.

While the cases of COVID toes are strange and something for doctors to further investigate, so far, the symptoms don’t seem serious or life threatening—thank goodness.

Dr. Amy Edwards, pediatric infectious disease specialist at University Hospitals, told the Cleveland Clinic that as long as a child is otherwise well and has no fever, coughing, or other signs of COVID-19 or other serious illnesses, COVID toes alone are not something that should be too worrisome to parents.

Still, the idea that mysterious symptoms exist that doctors don’t fully understand and that may be linked to COVID-19 is concerning. It points to the fact that there are just so many unknowns about this virus, which is nerve-wracking, to say the least.

On top of this, and even more concerning, over the past few days, there have been reports circulating about another concerning symptom affecting children—a mysterious rash that is causing toxic-shock-like symptoms in kids. This is obviously much more serious than COVID toes, and although the news of these symptoms is relatively new, it’s something for us all to watch out for and be aware of.

I caught wind of this news over the weekend. I live in Long Island, NY, and the news item I saw contained an interview with a doctor from my local hospital – the hospital that is just up the road from me.

Eeeeek. It was too close to home, and my gut froze when I read about this.

The symptoms described by local hospitals, and reported by my local news, include abdominal pain, vomiting, diarrhea, fever, and a rash. Some of the children also developed heart problems and low blood pressure.

And the kicker? The children were previously healthy, and some had no underlying health conditions.

“We now have at least about 12 patients in our hospital that are presenting in a similar fashion, that we think have some relation to a [COVID-19] infection,” Dr. James Schneider, Director of Pediatric Critical Care at Cohen Children’s Hospital on Long Island, told NBC News New York. “It’s something we’re starting to see around the country.”


I was hoping this was a fluke, and maybe somehow there had been a mistake. But no.

This morning I woke up to an advisory from the NYC Department of Health about this very issue. As the advisory points out, these concerning symptoms are not isolated to the New York area, they have been noted around the world as well, and in different parts of America besides New York.

“A pediatric multi-system inflammatory syndrome, recently reported by authorities in the United Kingdom, is also being observed among children and young adults in New York City and elsewhere in the United States,” the advisory reads.

The symptoms that clinicians have seen include:

  • Symptoms of Kawasaki disease, which cases inflammation in the body as well as heart and circulatory issues
  • Symptoms of shock
  • Persistent fever

So far, NYC reports 15 patients who have been hospitalized with these symptoms. The kids are aged 2-15 years and were hospitalized between April 17th and May 1st of this year. In addition to the above listed symptoms, more than half of the kids had rashes, abdominal pain, diarrhea, and vomiting; less than half had respiratory symptoms.

The scariest part is that some of these kids needed to be admitted to the ICU, because of their cardiac and respiratory symptoms. Five children required the support of a ventilator, according to the advisory.

And what, you may ask, is the link to COVID-19 here? Well, as the advisory explains, out of the 15 patients, four were positive for COVID-19, and six who were negative for the virus tested positive for antibodies to it.

Of course, as with everything, these are all hypotheticals. But experts do seem to be worried that there is a link here to the virus, which is why the NYC board of heath released this advisory.

As NYC’s health commissioner, Dr. Oxiris Barbot said in a statement quoted by The New York Times: “Even though the relationship of this syndrome to Covid-19 is not yet defined, and not all of these cases have tested positive for Covid-19 by either DNA test or serology, the clinical nature of this virus is such that we are asking all providers to contact us immediately if they see patients who meet the criteria we’ve outlined.”

Dr. Howard A. Zucker, New York state’s health commissioner, told The New York Times that he and his team are following developments of these symptoms very closely, and are concerned, especially as Europe has also reported similar symptoms among its younger population.

“So far, from what we understand, this is a rare complication in the pediatric population that they believe is related to Covid-19,” Dr. Zucker told the Times, “We are following it very closely.”

Okay, deep breaths. I know that I definitely get anxiety when I read things like this. My nerves have definitely been on hyper-alert since I read this news, and as I’ve followed it over the past few days.

The good news here is that so far, no children that we know of have died after experiencing these symptoms. They appear to be treatable, at least so far. However, these symptoms are severe, and do require hospitalization as well as ICU support.

Again, we don’t know for sure what the link is to COVID-19. But either way, we need to be on alert, and definitely call our pediatricians immediately if our children present with any of these symptoms.

“If the above-described inflammatory syndrome is suspected, pediatricians should immediately refer patients to a specialist in pediatric infectious disease, rheumatology, and/or critical care, as indicated,” the NYC Department of Health advises. “Early diagnosis and treatment of patients meeting full or partial criteria for Kawasaki disease is critical to preventing end-organ damage and other long-term complications.”

Again, I think all of this points to the fact that there is really so much we don’t know about COVID-19. So. Much. We need to be patient as those in the medical community continue to collect data and sort this out. We don’t want to resort to fear-mongering, of course, but we also can’t be complacent and think that there is any population here that gets a “free pass” when it comes to this virus. We can’t be so quick to dismiss this novel virus as posing no risk to our children.

Most of all, we need to follow the science and read the facts as they come, take appropriate precautions, and remain vigilant. At this point, I don’t think we can take it too far when it comes to keeping our children and our families strictly quarantined—and practicing strict social distancing when we venture out. The CDC and WHO guidelines continue to support this as well. Please don’t be misled by science-deniers and people frothing at the mouth about their perceived violations to their “civil liberties.”

When it comes to a virus that has proven to be this contagious, this serious, and this deadly, it is always, always better to be safe than sorry.

Information about COVID-19 is rapidly changing, and Scary Mommy is committed to providing the most recent data in our coverage. With news being updated so frequently, some of the information in this story may have changed after publication. For this reason, we are encouraging readers to use online resources from local public health departments, the Centers for Disease Control, and the World Health Organization to remain as informed as possible.