How COVID-19 is having a long-lasting impact on children infected by virus

Multisystem inflammatory syndrome affects heart, lungs, kidneys, brain, skin, eyes, digestive organs

ST. LOUIS – The move is on to get kids as young as 5 years old vaccinated against COVID-19. The rush is in response to an increasing number of children getting COVID-19 and 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,” Jackson said.

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

Jackson was suffering from an after-effect of COVID-19 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,” said Megan Cooper, MD, a pediatric rheumatologist immunologist at Washington University School of Medicine in St. Louis.

Cooper said that many of her patients, like Jackson, didn’t even know they had COVID-19 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. This is not a bad cold,” Cooper said.

“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 said.

Jackson spent eight days in the hospital that included a 10-hour IV infusion, followed by two weeks of steroids. Jackson is now feeling better. Cooper said the best way to avoid MIS-C is to avoid getting COVID-19.

“Get vaccinated, please,” Cooper said.

Black and Hispanic children have been disproportionally impacted by MIS-C. Doctors don’t know why some kids with COVID-19 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. Interestingly, researchers believe that in the future, COVID-19 will primarily impact very young children, as most everyone else will be vaccinated.