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If your child is back in a classroom, look for symptoms of this dangerous COVID-19 complication

Research shows children are less prone to COVID-19 but can have severe symptoms from an illness called MIS-C after exposure to the coronavirus.

TAMPA, Fla. — Students across the Tampa Bay area in the beginnings of a very different school year. They're wearing masks, sitting six feet apart from their classmates and washing their hands more than ever before.

As students are learning, parents should learn to look out for symptoms of a dangerous response to the coronavirus. Research has shown that children are not as susceptible to COVID-19 as adults are, but sometimes their bodies do respond to the virus in an alarming, severe way.

"Fortunately, children in general are at very low risk from getting critically ill from COVID-19, but unfortunately they seem to be prone to this abnormal response," said Dr. Jonathan DeGroat, Medical Director of Advent Health Wesley Chapel.

That abnormal response to the COVID-19 virus is called multisystem inflammatory syndrome, or MIS-C. It affects adolescents and children. Different parts of the body can become inflamed, potentially damaging essential organs like the heart, lungs, kidneys, brain, skin, eyes and the gastrointestinal tract. It usually starts showing two to four weeks after exposure to COVID-19. So while a child may not show symptoms of COVID-19, they could develop MIS-C a few weeks after coming into contact with it at school or through a friend or family member who was infected.

MIS-C is rare, but can be extremely dangerous. "Rare things become more common as more people get exposed, so as kids go back to school and are exposed to COVID-19, they may have milder or overlooked symptoms and this can show up later," said Dr. DeGroat. 

In Florida, more than 60 cases of MIS-C have been reported to the state department of Health. Most are in Broward and Dade County. Two cases have been reported to the DOH in Hillsborough County.

Symptoms you should look out for associated with MIS-C include:

  • Fever
  • Abdominal pain
  • Vomiting
  • Diarrhea
  • Neck pain
  • Rash
  • Bloodshot eyes
  • Feeling extra tired

If your child has these symptoms, you should seek emergency care immediately:

  • Trouble breathing
  • Pain or pressure in the chest that does not go away
  • Confusion
  • Not being able to wake up or stay awake
  • Blue coloring in the lips or face
  • Severe abdominal pain

Doctors will diagnose your child with MIS-C by doing blood tests, chest x-rays and ultrasounds of the heart and abdomen. Most children who are sick with MIS-C will require treatment at a hospital. 

It's encouraged that if your child does have any of these symptoms, they're looked at by a doctor in an abundance of caution, since MIS-C can affect essential organs and become serious fairly quickly.

RELATED: Here's where COVID-19 cases have been reported in Tampa Bay schools

RELATED: Children with no COVID-19 symptoms may be more contagious than sick adults, study finds

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