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Amidst the relentless fatigue inflicted by the global coronavirus pandemic, parents found comfort in the fact that young COVID-19 patients often showed mild symptoms, or none at all. According to a study cited by the CDC, 13% of children contracting the virus are asymptomatic.
But more recently pediatricians share stories of infected children in rare cases suffering from a dying inflammatory syndrome called Multisystem Inflam Inflammatory Syndrome in Children (MIS-C).
Should parents worry, especially as society and the economy begin to reopen and children who start venting outdoors more?
To answer this question – and for the latest information on coronavirus and children – we reviewed with UCSF pediatrician Dr. Lisa Dana, who saw hundreds of local children at Golden Gate Pediatrics with locations in both S.F. and Mill Valley and is also part of the clinical faculty at UCSF. (Read the SFGATE interview with Dr. Dana that took place in March.)
SFGATE: What are the symptoms of MIS-C?
Lisa Dana: Fever, abdominal pain, vomiting, rash, pink eyes and red and cracked lips and tongue. They are usually not present with a cough.
We believe that children with MIS-C show an average of 4-6 weeks after first contracting the coronavirus. They may have little or no symptoms associated with the COVID-19 virus. It is an inflammatory syndrome that occurs later.
SFGATE: Which children are at the highest risk for MIS-C?
Dr. Funds: Children over the age of school seem to be at greater risk for this post-viral inflammation.
SFGATE: What are the odds of my child suffering from MIS-C?
Dr. Funds: MIS-C is rare, but we learn more about this syndrome every day.
We see more than 200 cases in the United States of MIS-C but there are new reports of this syndrome daily. There has been at least one reported case in the South Bay.
SFGATE: Have you ever experienced any children with MIS-C?
Dr. Funds: Fortunately, we did not detect severe disease in the patient population.
SFGATE: As things begin to reopen, I hear parents holding play dates behind their children. Is this OK?
Dr. Funds: It is very important that you continue to practice social travel and emphasize its importance to your children. We are all tired of this virus, but this virus does not lose steam. It is still a terrible virus.
Young children cannot be far from social when playing with friends in a backyard or in a play structure. Walking in the park with another friend and maintaining a distance of six feet is OK, but if you think your preschool-age kid can’t do it, then I can walk without friends. Keep in mind that your baby may not need the same social interaction you need.
SFGATE: Is it OK to bring my kids to the grocery store with me?
Dr. Funds: If possible, do not take your children to the grocery store or pharmacy. The more people in tight locations, the more likely the virus will continue to spread.
SFGATE: Should my child wear a mask?
Dr. Funds: Per the CDC’s guidelines, everyone under the age of 2 must wear a mask and be social trained. According to the CDC, “Face caps should not be applied to children younger than 2 years old, anyone with breathing problems, or unconscious, incapacitated or otherwise unable to remove the cover without help. “
Masks reduce transmission of this virus. If your 4 year old is not wearing a mask, he or she may contract COVID-19 and may not show symptoms, but may transmit the virus to your family. It’s just not enough for mom or dad to wear a mask. Kids need to wear them too.
A cloth mask with ear loops that fits right above the nose is the best choice.
Parents can wear a mask to their children at home.
SFGATE: Is it OK to take my kids with me for a walk with the dog? Can I take care of other people’s dog children?
Dr. Funds: Take your family on a walk with your dog. You should keep your distance from other families. You should never be so close to another family that you can take care of their dog.
SFGATE: Can children visit with their grandparents?
Dr. Funds: Extended families are starting to meet and work together. Grandparents help with childcare as parents continue to work from home and juggle child care and work. This is a risk, and every family is evaluating this risk based on the recommendations of the CDC and the California Department of Public Health. I think it is still safe from grandparents because of the increased risk of complications from Coronavirus. The best way you can keep your grandparents alive is to Facetime with them or give them a call.
SFGATE: What should I do if I think my child has a coronavirus?
Dr. Funds: If you are concerned that your child may have COVID-19, call your doctor to make an appointment for advice on how to manage the symptoms and schedule an appointment. In our office we see patients whenever possible. It’s best to stay home. If your child is in shortness of breath and has difficulty breathing, go to the emergency room and / or call 911.
SFGATE: My son is due for a year of check ups Should I still go?
Dr. Funds: Yeah. You must keep your schedule scheduled for check-ups. Your one-year-old will receive important vaccines to keep him healthy.
SFGATE: If my child is injured, is the emergency room safe?
Dr. Funds: Yeah. The ER is safe. Do not postpone taking immediate care of your child. If you have any concerns, call your doctor.
SFGATE: If I have an urgent medical issue, what should I do?
Dr. Funds: Call your doctor. They can schedule a virtual visit. We make virtual visits to our office every day and during the night.
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Amy Graff is a digital editor with SFGATE. Email him: email@example.com.