Amid recent warnings about a possible link between Covid-19 in children and an inflammatory condition called Kawasaki disease that can harm the heart and other organs, heart experts stress that such cases seem to be rare.
Most kids with Covid-19 have mild symptoms or none at all, but a small number have developed Kawasaki disease, often requiring hospitalisation and occasionally, intensive care.
Features of Kawasaki disease include fever above 102 to 104 degrees Fahrenheit (38.8 to 40 degrees Celsius) for at least five days, swelling of the neck glands and rash.
Other symptoms include redness and swelling of the palms of the hands and soles of the feet, bloodshot eyes, irritation and inflammation of the mouth, lips and throat, according to the American Heart Association (AHA). Patients may also develop heart, kidney, gastrointestinal or neurological disorders.
Children become very ill very fast
"We want to reassure parents – this appears to be uncommon," said Dr Jane Newburger of AHA's Council on Lifelong Congenital Heart Disease and Heart Health in the Young. "While Kawasaki disease can damage the heart or blood vessels, the heart problems usually go away in five or six weeks, and most children fully recover."
Sometimes, the coronary artery damage persists, but that's rare, she said in an AHA news release.
"Because of this, Kawasaki disease is the most common cause of acquired heart disease in children in developed countries," said Newburger, director of the Kawasaki Program at Boston Children's Hospital. "Prompt treatment is critical to prevent significant heart problems."
In some cases, children become very ill very fast, so those with symptoms of Kawasaki disease should be evaluated right away and admitted to hospitals with paediatric cardiac intensive care units, according to Newburger.
Since there is a small but increasing number of children with fever and evidence of inflammation who are not severely ill, all children with unexplained fever and elevated C-reactive protein (CRP) or white blood cell count should be carefully monitored, Newburger advised.
To learn more, it's important to enrol children, whenever possible, in Covid-19 research projects, according to the council, a volunteer scientific group of leading pediatric cardiologists.
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