Medical Moment: The long-lasting impact of COVID-19 on kids

Published: Dec. 31, 2021 at 9:02 PM EST
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The move is on to get kids as young as five years old vaccinated against COVID-19.

The rush is in response to an increasing number of children getting COVID, then experiencing inflammation throughout their bodies.

Jackson Thorn has got game. Whether he’s shooting hoops or playing a game of catch, not much slowed this 12-year-old down. Until…

“My head started hurting and my stomach started hurting,” he said.

“He woke up in the middle of the night, that night, and was wheezing,” says Amy Polly, Jackson’s mom.

Jackson was suffering from an after-effect of COVID in kids called multisystem inflammatory syndrome in children, or MIS-C for short.

“I see kids with MIS-C and I see this post inflammatory reaction to COVID is really just like nothing I’ve seen in my career before,” says Megan Cooper, pediatric rheumatologist/immunologist at the Washington University School of Medicine.

Cooper says that many of her patients, like Jackson, didn’t even know they had COVID until they started feeling the after-effects of MIS-C, causing inflammation in the heart, lungs, kidneys, brain, skin, eyes, and digestive organs.

“This is not the flu,” Cooper says. “This is not a bad cold.”

“I felt scared because I didn’t know what was wrong with me,” Jackson said.

Symptoms include a high fever, abdominal pain, diarrhea, and vomiting.

“All of a sudden he would go from feeling okay to a super high fever, terrible headache, all within a matter of like five minutes,” Amy says.

Jackson spent eight days in the hospital which included a ten hour IV infusion, followed by two weeks of steroids. Jackson is now feeling better. Dr. Cooper says the best way to avoid MIS-C is to avoid getting COVID.

“Get vaccinated, please,” Cooper says.

Doctors don’t know why some kids with covid get MIS-C and some don’t, or how long symptoms will last. But symptoms usually occur within two to four weeks after having the virus or being around someone who had it.

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