Parents and Kids

What is Multisystem Inflammatory Syndrome in Children?

Dr. Cynthia Christy tells us about the new, serious health condition that’s been connected to COVID-19.

Jun. 3, 2020 1   min read

Baby hand with rash

Multisystem Inflammatory Syndrome in Children (MIS-C) is a new serious, rare, health condition that’s been connected to COVID-19 by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC). MIS-C has been compared to Kawasaki Disease and Toxic Shock Syndrome because they share similar symptoms, but MIS-C is a different illness.

There have been approximately 190 cases of MIS-C and three total deaths in New York State so far, and local health officials are learning more about its causes and treatments. Caucasian children account for 21% of the cases, African American children account for 31%, and Hispanic children account for 33%. 

Cynthia Christy, MD, Pediatric Infectious Disease Specialist for Rochester Regional Health, says the severity and newness of the disease are making parents worry. “While the majority of children who get MIS-C have recovered, whenever there’s a new disease that appears in children, we take it very seriously and are learning everything we can to diagnose and treat it,” said Dr. Christy.


MIS-C has a range of symptoms that impact several organs and systems in the body. Some children with MIS-C show similar symptoms to Kawasaki Disease in which blood vessels are inflamed or Toxic Shock Syndrome which shows rash and low blood pressures. With MIS-C, some children show signs of rash, gastrointestinal symptoms, kidney injury, neurologic symptoms, or heart inflammation with impaired heart function, according to the Boston Children’s Hospital.

Symptoms of MIS-C vary from case to case, but can include:

  • prolonged fever
  • rash
  • conjunctivitis
  • stomachache
  • vomiting and/or diarrhea
  • a swollen lymph node in the neck
  • red and cracked lips
  • swollen hands and/or feet
  • irritability
  • unusual sleepiness or weakness 

It is currently unknown if Multisystem Inflammatory Syndrome in Children is specific to children or if it also occurs in adults. 


“Treatments for MIS-C do exist and have shown to be effective,” said Dr. Christy.

Treatments include intravenous immunoglobulin, steroids, and other anti-inflammatory drugs to prevent coronary artery aneurysms, reduce inflammation, and protect the heart and other organs.

In a recent study published in the American Journal of Emergency Medicine, doctors treated MIS-C patients with immunosuppressive drugs that are more commonly used to treat rheumatoid arthritis. Most children recover from MIS-C with careful observation and treatment.

What doctors do for patients

Most children who become ill with MIS-C will need to be treated at the hospital, and some will need to be treated at the Pediatric Intensive Care Unit (ICU).

According to the CDC, if your child is suspected of having MIS-C, doctors may do certain tests to look for inflammation or other signs of the disease. These tests may include:

  • Blood tests
  • X-ray
  • Heart ultrasound (echocardiogram)
  • Abdominal ultrasound

What can parents do

“If parents start to notice any of the symptoms of MIS-C, they should call their doctor right away,” said Dr. Christy. “Calling your doctor first allows a professional to assess the situation and determine the next course of action.”

Dr. Christy also said that it’s important that parents continue to teach their kids proper masking and social distancing practices to stay as protected as possible from the new coronavirus. “Most patients who have been diagnosed with MIS-C have also tested positive for COVID-19, so keeping your children protected from the coronavirus will go a long way towards keeping them safe.”

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