An information note sent to doctors by the Paediatric Intensive Care Society (PICS) marked ‘significant alert’ and stating ‘please refer these children as a matter of urgency,’ has suggested that a new condition potentially related to the coronavirus may be emerging in some children.
Children have been categorised as extremely ‘low risk’ targets for COVID-19 and the alert suggests that the new syndrome is likely to have affected very few of them; however it advises an ‘early discussion’ of all potential cases with regional paediatric infectious disease and critical care teams in order to identify origin and curtail the spread.
The syndrome has been described as multi-system inflammatory and has required intensive care for some children in London and other UK regions. The PICS messages identified cardiac inflammation, abdominal pain and gastrointestinal symptoms as common features of the syndrome and pointed to possible links with toxic shock syndrome and atypical Kawasaki Disease.
Simon Kenny, NHS England’s National Clinical Director for Children and Young People said that it remained very rare for children to be affected by serious complications in relation to COVID-19 but it was nevertheless extremely important for clinicians to be aware of any potential emerging links in order to make treatment decisions in the best interests of the child. His message to parents and carers emphasised that:
‘If you are worried about your child for whatever reason, contact NHS 111 or your family doctor for urgent advice, or 999 in an emergency, and if a professional tells you to go to hospital, please go to hospital.’
APPG Lead Author, Helen Clark said that there was now a clear case for the Government to devote at least one of its daily press conferences to the needs of children during the coronavirus crisis:
We know that, thankfully, very few children have become seriously ill or died as a direct result of contracting the virus – but the presence of a possible new syndrome is just the latest of a series of issues affecting children’s health and wellbeing that will be of great concern to parents. At the very least, they need to know that any symptoms of illness that their child displays will be taken extremely seriously and that a visit to the hospital should never be put off due to misplaced concern that they will be accused of wasting the time of hard pressed NHS staff.
I do think that it would be very helpful for the Government to devote at least one of its daily press conferences to matters concerning children. The daily press conferences have a naturally captive audience and are reported widely. The Government now needs to explore the ways in which its important messages about children’s health and wellbeing during this crisis can be conveyed to the largest number of people responsible for their care.
The daily press conference is one obvious way in which to do this – and I urge Ministers to take it.