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If you beat COVID-19 but then develop this symptom weeks later, it could be deadly

Published Oct 18th, 2020 1:35PM EDT
Coronavirus Complications
Image: Vadim/Adobe

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  • A symptom that might seem benign could indicate that a person who has already beaten COVID-19 is developing a scary, potentially deadly coronavirus complication.
  • Adults are also at risk of developing the same multisystem inflammatory syndrome that has been seen in children who survived COVID-19.
  • People who develop a skin rash a few weeks after clearing the COVID-19 infection might need immediate medical attention for a condition called MIS-A.

Coronavirus statistics include a misleading figure, one that will fool many people into thinking that COVID-19 isn’t as dangerous as people say. Out of nearly 40 million cases that have been recorded, about 1.12 million people died of the disease. That means everyone else either recovered (29.23 million people) or is currently fighting the illness (9.36 million). Many of those active cases will also recover in the coming weeks. What those figures don’t tell you is that many people who clear the virus will then experience unexpected and potentially severe complications. The phenomenon has come to be called “Long COVID,” a chronic version of the illness where patients continue to exhibit various symptoms even after beating the virus. In addition, some people risk developing a potentially-life-threatening syndrome that was first seen in children who survived COVID-19. And it can all start with a symptom you might not think is very serious.

Multisystem inflammatory syndrome in children (MIS-C) has now also been shown to impact adults, and the syndrome is called MIS-A. Both of them can be scary, and both can lead to life-threatening complications that require hospitalization and even intensive care. These conditions can appear without warning after a coronavirus infection is cleared, but there are sometimes signs that a patient will experience MIS-C or MIS-A.

One of the first symptoms that COVID-19 survivors might see is a skin rash, NBC News reports. COVID-19 does sometimes have unusual dermatological symptoms of its own, including rashes and a phenomenon called Covid Toe. But this new rash would appear after COVID-19 is gone.

“Before I even saw the patient,” Dr. Alisa Femia told NBC News, “I said: ‘This hasn’t been reported yet. This must be MIS-A.'” The director of inpatient dermatology at NYU Langone Health in New York City was looking at a patient’s chart that included several photos. A 45-year-old man had provided care to his wife in previous weeks while she was suffering from COVID-19. The man had “dusky-red circular patches on the palms of his hands and the soles of his feet,” per NBC. He also had pink eyes and “extremely chapped” lips.

“The skin’s right there in front of your eyes,” Femia said. “You can’t not see it.”

Dermatologists might be more likely to observe this symptom in patients, but not all of them will link it to MIS-C or MIS-A. However, these skin rashes seem to be an early indicator of this scary post-COVID syndrome that some people experience. The condition might be under-diagnosed in adults because many physicians don’t even know to look for it.

Aside from rashes, these patients could experience symptoms that can appear in COVID-19 as well as other conditions, including fevers, chest pain, heart problems, and gastrointestinal issues. Crucially, MIS-A patients would not exhibit a key symptom of severe COVID-19, which is shortness of breath. Their COVID-19 PCR tests would return negative results, while antibody tests can be positive, suggesting a recent recovery from the infection.

Doctors still can’t fully explain what causes the inflammation inside the body after the novel coronavirus is cleared, but MIS-C and MIS-A can both be deadly. Currently, there are no guaranteed cures for these inflammatory syndromes in COVID-19 survivors.

NBC reports that children are usually treated with intravenous immunoglobulin, an antibody treatment that has nothing to do with COVID-19 antibodies that plasma transfers would provide. Adults are often given steroids and interleukin-6 inhibitors since they already developed COVID-19 antibodies. Some doctors who spoke with NBC theorize that it’s the coronavirus antibodies that might cause MIS-A. But that’s speculation for the time being since there’s no definitive proof to support it.

Chris Smith Senior Writer

Chris Smith has been covering consumer electronics ever since the iPhone revolutionized the industry in 2008. When he’s not writing about the most recent tech news for BGR, he brings his entertainment expertise to Marvel’s Cinematic Universe and other blockbuster franchises.

Outside of work, you’ll catch him streaming almost every new movie and TV show release as soon as it's available.