What Parents Need to Know About Multi-system Inflammatory Syndrome in Children (MIS-C)

Multi-system inflammatory syndrome in children (MIS-C) is an extremely rare condition in which different parts of the body — including eyes, skin and some internal organs — become inflamed. MIS-C is a serious condition requiring hospital care.

Is MIS-C related to coronavirus infection (COVID-19)?

Almost all children diagnosed with multi-system inflammatory syndrome have also tested positive for antibodies to SARS-CoV2, the virus that causes COVID-19.

While most children with COVID-19 experience mild symptoms and need no advanced medical care, the virus seems to set off an excessive immune response in a very small number of children, resulting in inflammation throughout the body, or MIS-C.

Is MIS-C contagious?

While COVID-19 is highly contagious, there is currently no evidence suggesting that people can contract MIS-C from others.

What are the symptoms of MIS-C?

Although many of the symptoms of MIS-C are similar to those of Kawasaki disease and toxic shock syndrome, MIS-C appears to be a distinct condition.

Symptoms of MIS-C may include:

  • High fever that lasts for several days
  • Gastrointestinal distress, including diarrhea and abdominal pain (sometimes severe)
  • Swollen lymph nodes
  • Changes in hands and feet
  • Rash
  • Conjunctivitis
  • Cracked lips
  • Extreme fatigue and/or irritability

Some children with MIS-C also experience shock, which affects blood pressure and heart function. These children require critical care in the Intensive Care Unit (ICU).

If your child experiences a high fever that lasts for several days, and you suspect they may have MIS-C, don’t hesitate to seek care. Call your pediatrician or take your child to the Emergency Department (ED).

While we understand you may be uncomfortable about visiting the hospital during the COVID-19 pandemic, it’s critical not to delay medical attention for children with MIS-C. Children’s Hospital of Philadelphia (CHOP) is committed to safely providing care for your child. Here’s what you can expect in CHOP’s ED.

Is there a treatment for MIS-C?

Multi-system inflammatory syndrome in children is treated with medications typically used to treat Kawasaki disease, including steroids and intravenous immunoglobin (IVIG). These medications reduce the body’s excessive immune response, lowering fever and inflammation and allowing heart function to return to normal. Most patients diagnosed with MIS-C recover quickly with treatment.

CHOP research on MIS-C

Because multi-system inflammatory disease in children is a newly discovered syndrome, its long-term outlook is still unknown. CHOP researchers across our institution — including the Immune Dysregulation Program, which specializes in rare and complex immune system disorders — are already working hard to learn more about MIS-C.

By studying the immune biology and genetics of affected children, our scientists and researchers hope to better understand the potential causes of MIS-C and why some children experience this excessive immune response to COVID-19.

If your child has been treated for MIS-C, they may need follow-up clinical care. CHOP’s Division of Infectious Diseases cares for children with severe or unusual infectious diseases. To make an appointment with a specialist in Infectious Diseases, contact 267-425-3377.

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