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Amid the relentless stress imposed by the global coronavirus pandemic, parents have found comfort in the fact that young COVID-19 patients mostly display mild symptoms, or none at all. According to a study cited by the CDC, 13% of children who contract the virus are asymptomatic.
But more recently pediatricians are sharing stories of infected kids in rare cases falling ill with a life-threatening inflammatory syndrome called Multisystem Inflammatory Syndrome in Children (MIS-C).
Should parents be worried, especially as society and the economy begins to reopen and kids starting venturing outside the house more?
To answer this question — and for the latest information around coronavirus and kids — we checked back in with UCSF pediatrician Dr. Lisa Dana, who sees hundreds of local kids 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 done in March.)
SFGATE: What are the symptoms of MIS-C?
Dr. Lisa Dana: Fever, stomachache, vomiting, rash, pink eye and red and cracked lips and tongue. They usually do not present with a cough.
We believe that children with MIS-C are presenting on average 4-6 weeks after first contracting coronavirus. They may have few or no symptoms associated with the COVID-19 virus. This is an inflammatory syndrome that occurs later.
SFGATE: Which children are at the highest risk for MIS-C?
Dr. Dana: Children in school-age range seem to be more at risk for this post-viral inflammatory syndrome.
SFGATE: What are the odds of my child suffering from MIS-C?
Dr. Dana: MIS-C is very rare, but we are learning more about this syndrome every day.
We have seen 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 treated any children with MIS-C?
Dr. Dana: Thankfully, we have not seen severe disease in our patient population.
SFGATE: As things start to reopen, I’m hearing of parents holding backyard play dates with their kids. Is this OK?
Dr. Dana: It is so important that you continue to practice social distancing and emphasize the importance of this to your children. We are all getting tired of this virus, but this virus is not losing steam. It is still a terrible virus.
Young children can not socially distance when playing with friends in a backyard or on a play structure. A walk to the park with another friend and maintaining that six-feet distance is OK, but if you think your preschool-age child is not able to do this, then I would go on a walk without friends. Keep in mind that your toddler may not need the same social interaction that you need.
SFGATE: Is it OK to take my kids to the grocery store with me?
Dr. Dana: If possible, do not take your kids to the grocery store or pharmacy. The more people in those crowded locations, the more likely the virus will continue to spread.
SFGATE: Should my child wear a mask?
Dr. Dana: Per CDC guidelines, everyone over the age 2 should wear a mask and should practice social distancing. According to the CDC, “Cloth face coverings should not be placed on young children younger than 2 years of age, anyone who has trouble breathing, or is unconscious, incapacitated or otherwise unable to remove the cover without assistance.”
Masks decrease the transmission of this virus. If your 4-year-old is not wearing a mask, he can contract COVID-19 and may not show symptoms, but may transfer the virus to your family. It is not just enough for mom or dad to wear a mask. The kids need to wear them too.
A cloth mask with ear loops that fits well above the nose is the best option.
Parents can practice mask-wearing with their kids at home.
SFGATE: Is it OK to take my kids with me on walks with the dog? Can my child pet other people’s dogs?
Dr. Dana: 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 pet their dog.
SFGATE: Can children visit with their grandparents?
Dr. Dana: Extended families are beginning to meet and shelter together. Grandparents are helping with childcare as parents are continuing to work from home and juggle childcare and work. This comes with risk, and every family is evaluating this risk based on the CDC and California Department of Public Health recommendations. I think it is still safest to shelter away from grandparents as they are at 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 coronavirus?
Dr. Dana: If you are concerned that your child may have COVID-19, call your doctor to make an appointment for advice on how to manage symptoms and to set up an appointment. In our office we are seeing patients virtually whenever possible. It is best to stay home. If your child is in respiratory distress and is having difficulty breathing, go to the emergency room and/or call 911.
SFGATE: My child is due for his one year check up. Should I still go?
Dr. Dana: Yes. You should keep your routine scheduled check-ups. Your one year old will receive important vaccines to keep him healthy.
SFGATE: If my child has an injury, is the emergency room safe?
Dr. Dana: Yes. The ER is safe. Do not delay getting urgent care for your child. If you have any concerns, call your doctor.
SFGATE: If I have a non-urgent medical issue, what should I do?
Dr. Dana: Call your doctor. They can schedule a virtual visit. We are doing virtual visits in our office every day and into the evening hours.
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Amy Graff is a digital editor with SFGATE. Email her: email@example.com.