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The rare post-Covid illness hospitalising 100 children a week

NHS bosses preparing for feared surge in cases of paediatric inflammatory multi-system syndrome

NHS hospitals are freeing up intensive care beds in preparation for an expected increase in cases of a rare disease triggered by Covid-19 that is already hospitalising up to 100 children a week.

Paediatric inflammatory multi-system syndrome (PIMS) is a post-viral syndrome that “one in 5,000 children get about a month after having Covid, regardless of whether they had symptoms”, The Guardian reports.

According to the NHS website, symptoms include a high temperature that lasts for a few days; a rash; abdominal pain; tiredness or weakness; red and cracked lips; and diarrhoea and vomiting. In serious cases, the symptoms are like those of toxic shock, sepsis or Kawasaki disease, another rare condition affecting children and infants.

The Guardian says that in a “phenomenon that is worrying paediatricians”, hospital admission figures seen by the paper show that 75% of children worst impacted by PIMS are black, asian or minority ethnic (BAME).

And in another major cause for concern, “experts believe they will see a larger number of children affected by the disease” in the coming weeks, “because of how widespread Covid-19 infections have become in the last month”, The Independent reports.

“Paediatric departments across the NHS are recalling children’s nurses who have been redeployed to help care for adult patients”, while also “freeing up specialist intensive care beds”, as more cases of the rare illness are reported, the paper continues.

The mother of a seven-year-old girl told Metro in January about how her daughter was rushed to hospital after developing PIMS weeks after a coronavirus outbreak at her school.

Debbie McGuire, from Grimsby, raised the alert after noticing that daughter Sienna’s lips had turned bright red and that she had a rash on both hands. 

Sienna was taken to a local hospital, where she was put on a course of antibiotics through a drip, “but her temperature rose to 39.5C and she could barely stay awake”, according to the paper.

As her condition continued to deteriorate, the schoolgirl was transferred to Sheffield Children’s Hospital the following day.

“The consultant explained to me that she suspected Sienna had something called Paediatric Multi-System Inflammatory Syndrome which is related to Covid-19 and causes inflammation around the body, and can cause tissue damage or organ failure,” her mother recalled, adding: “I was so scared of losing her at that point.”

Fortunately, Sienna’s condition improved and she is now back at home.

Dr Liz Whittaker, infectious disease lead at the Royal College of Paediatrics and Child Health (RCPCH), says that “PIMS can be very serious”, but is urging parents not to panic.

The condition “remains rare”, Whittaker said, adding: “We don’t think parents should worry, as it is far more likely not to affect their child than to affect them.”

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