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10 Subtle Signs Your Child Has Coronavirus

Every minute counts, when it comes to your child’s health. 

Early in the coronavirus pandemic, you likely heard it was mainly a serious threat to senior citizens. Today, we know that COVID-19 can seriously affect people of all ages, including school-age children. Doctors are noticing what they're calling Multisystem Inflammatory Syndrome in Children, which causes inflammation throughout the body and can attack the heart. At least 145 cases have been reported in New York City alone, with many admitted to intensive care. Compared to adult COVID-19, it is very rare. But it's worth being vigilant for signs of the syndrome, which can be subtle at first. Here's what to look out for.


Rash or Peeling Skin

child girl itching her leg

This weekend, the New York Times reported on the case of 14-year-old Jack McMorrow, whose first sign of the syndrome was a speckled reddish rash on his hands. Peeling skin on the hands or feet has also been reported, along with "COVID toes," red, sore or itchy swellings on the toes.



girl child abdominal pain

As in adults, COVID-19 can first show up with gastrointestinal symptoms, including abdominal pain, nausea, vomiting and diarrhea.


Enlarged Lymph Node

Children neck lymph node inflammation (lymphadenitis) is disease of is an infection

McMorrow developed a "tennis-ball-sized" enlarged lymph node on his neck. In children, the Mayo Clinic normally suggests seeing your doctor when enlarged lymph nodes last longer than two weeks. But if they're accompanied by fever or other symptoms, call your doctor ASAP.


High Fever

Sick child in bed, mother holding thermometer, comforting poor girl

According to the CDC, a fever over 100.4 Fahrenheit for more than 24 hours is a hallmark of the syndrome. If your child spikes a temperature that won't go away, note other symptoms and call your doctor.



a little girl in her bed has a stomachache

McMorrow said he experienced pain throughout his body in a "throbbing, stinging rush" that felt like "someone injected you with straight-up fire." 


Red Eyes

Portrait of a Young Teen Boy with Dark Curly Hair Covering His face

Very red eyes ("pinkeye" or conjunctivitis) are also a symptom of the syndrome, Michigan Health reports.


Cough or Shortness of Breath

Young girl sneezing at home with paper towel prepared to blow her noise

The classic sign of COVID-19 is a persistent dry cough, possibly accompanied with chest tightness, pain or shortness of breath. 


Trouble Breathing

child girl itching her leg

This is a serious symptom. If your child experiences any difficulty getting air, seek medical attention ASAP.


Sore Throat

Child With Sore Throat

Another common sign of the virus is a red or sore throat. According to Johns Hopkins, this and other common COVID-19 symptoms can be mild at first and become more intense over five to seven days.


Loss of Taste or Smell

little girl holding nose

A sudden inability to smell or taste has been reported by some people with COVID-19. An early study found that people with this symptom were more likely to have a mild case of the disease; it may indicate the virus has mainly attacked the nose instead of the lungs.

And to get through this pandemic at your healthiest, don't miss these Things You Should Never Do During the Coronavirus Pandemic.

Michael Martin
Michael Martin is a New York City-based writer and editor. Read more about Michael
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