How PIMS worsens COVID for kids

Three-year-old Eran might look like a picture of health, but two months ago it was a very different story.

One month after recovering from a mild case of COVID, his mother Sara Bittan found herself rushing him to an Israeli emergency room.

"He had a terrible rash, all over his body, swollen eyes, red eyes. He was very weak. He didn't have an appetite. He didn't eat for a few days. He was crying a lot. He had pains in his legs, stomach pains. He couldn't go to the toilet. I mean he didn't go to the toilet for a few days. He suffered a lot and all the tests they did for him. It was terrible."

Eran was eventually diagnosed with pediatric inflammatory multisystem syndrome, also known as PIMS, and was hospitalized for a week. It also goes by the acronym MIS-C.

Eran has since fully recovered.

While cases of severe illness and death from COVID-19 remain far more rare in kids than adults, tens of thousands of children worldwide may still struggle with its effects - including PIMS and long COVID. The American Centers for Disease Control has estimated 6,000 kids have suffered PIMS in the U.S. alone, with 52 deaths.

... and doctors, such as Shimon Reif of the Hadassah Medical Center in Jerusalem and Liat Ashkenazi-Hoffnung of the Schneider Medical Center in Petah Tikva, Israel, are still learning how the illness impacts children.

(SHIMON REIF) "It's a new disease, a new consequence. We never saw such a consequence of any viral or any disease and it occurs mainly one to two months after they have corona. Nevertheless, which is very interesting, they may have very mild disease of corona, even undetectable, even asymptomatic. And only when they have the PIMS, we recognize by serology tests that they had corona."

(LIAT ASHKENAZI-HOFFNUNG) "These are healthy children who suddenly have all these symptoms that really influence their daily lives and they struggle to go back. So what we see here in Schneider is definitely physical health that's very much influenced by this [Long-covid] syndrome and also mental problems such as anxiety and also PTSD-like symptoms."

PIMS, which typically occurs a few weeks after coronavirus infection, is caused by the immune system going into overdrive. It creates inflammation in the heart, lungs, kidneys, brain, and gastrointestinal organs.

Israeli doctors estimate it affects one in every 3,500 children infected with COVID-19, and has a fatality rate of 1-2%.

Most children fully recover, but physicians and parents like Bittan, want others to be aware of the risk infection can carry for young patients - especially as a growing number of countries are making COVID-19 vaccines eligible for younger children.

"I didn't know my son will have PIMS and it happened to him. And I think that everyone should know it can happen and I would like that everyone, that it won't happen to anyone because he suffered a lot and I suffered with him."