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UK doctors warn of unusual coronavirus symptoms in some children

Published Apr 28th, 2020 3:19PM EDT
Coronavirus Symptoms
Image: Kin Cheung/AP/Shutterstock

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  • UK doctors have issued an alert to colleagues about a series of severe symptoms that can appear in some children infected with the novel coronavirus.
  • Some children exhibited “multi-system inflammation” and flu-like symptoms that required intensive care.
  • Not all of the children were COVID-19 positive, but they exhibited signs indicative of toxic shock syndrome or atypical Kawasaki Disease, which affects the heart and blood vessels.
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Children fare better than adults when dealing with the novel coronavirus, at least that’s what all the statistics say. But there’s always an exception to the rule, like the unexpected death of a newborn who tested COVID-19 positive, or of a teenager who had no preexisting conditions. That’s to say that while the fatality rate is significantly lower for children than adults, there’s no way to prevent complications at any age. Proving that point are UK doctors who have issued an urgent alert to their peers about children exhibiting unusual coronavirus symptoms that are part of a more severe COVID-19 reaction.

The Paediatric Intensive Care Society posted the alert on Twitter (via BBC), warning doctors of “children of all ages presenting with a multi-system inflammatory state requiring intensive care.”

“The cases have in common overlapping features of toxic shock syndrome and atypical Kawasaki Disease, with blood parameters consistent with severe COVID-19 in children,” the warning reads. Symptoms including abdominal pain, gastrointestinal symptoms, and cardiac inflammation have been common for children with confirmed COVID-19 results as well as kids whose tests came back negative.

The alert doesn’t specify how many children manifested these symptoms or their ages. “Overall, children seem to be more resilient to serious lung infection following exposure to coronavirus, and the numbers admitted to intensive care units are relatively low,” Dr. Nazima Pathan told BBC, adding that colleagues in Spain and Italy reported similar developments in children infected with the novel coronavirus.

NHS England said it knew of fewer than 20 cases of severe COVID-19 infections in children.

But these patients were extremely ill, BBC reports. High temperature, low blood pressure, rashes, and difficulty breathing have also been observed in kids who exhibited symptoms similar to atypical Kawasaki Disease and toxic shock syndrome. The signs are indicative of a body overwhelmed as it tries to fight off the infection, experts told BBC.

The Royal College of Paediatrics and Child Health (RCPCH) advises parents to seek urgent help if they observe any of the following symptoms in their children:

  • Becoming pale, mottled and feeling abnormally cold to the touch
  • Has pauses in their breathing (apnoeas), has an irregular breathing pattern or starts grunting
  • Has severe difficulty in breathing becoming agitated or unresponsive
  • Is going blue round the lips
  • Has a fit/seizure
  • Becomes extremely distressed (crying inconsolably despite distraction), confused, very lethargic (difficult to wake) or unresponsive
  • Develops a rash that does not disappear with pressure (the ‘Glass test’)
  • Has testicular pain, especially in teenage boys
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.