What is Paediatric Multisystem Inflammatory Syndrome (or PIMS)?

PIMS is a rare condition that seems to affects children who have or who have had COVID-19. As the name suggests, it causes inflammation of many organ systems of the body. Less than 0.5% of children who contract COVID-19 will go on to have this condition. MOST children are not seriously affected, but in a small number of cases, it can be serious.

What can happen in these serious cases?

The inflammatory process can affect the blood vessels, particularly the ones around the heart. This process is otherwise known as vasculitis and can lead to tissue damage and poor organ function. Inflammation is usually a normal response to infection but in PIMS this process seems to go into overdrive causing damage to the body. PIMS seems to affect older children and teenagers and happens about 2-4 weeks after infection with COVID-19.

How can I tell if my child might be developing PIMS?

Typically, children with PIMS have a high fever over several days and can also have symptoms of:

  • Tummy pain
  • Diarrhoea
  • Vomiting
  • Rash
  • Cold hands and feet
  • Red eyes

If your child has these symptoms or has a fever >38C, cold hands and feet and is sleepy – do discuss this with a GP so further action can be taken.

What can be done if doctors think that my child has PIMS?

There is no single test to diagnose PIMS. Further tests will be carried out and along with the medical history, it can be determined whether your child might have PIMS. If this is the case, then treatments can be started to suppress the inflammatory process. 

Despite the increased numbers of children having contracted COVID-19 during the Autumn of 2020, it is rare for children to become unwell with COVID. It is even less likely for them to be admitted to hospital (1-5 children per 100, 000). Most children would be expected to make a full recovery following PIMS with the right treatment and will be followed up to ensure they remain well.

It is difficult to confirm whether there has been any death related to PIMS. There have been 2 suspected cases of PIMS where children have sadly died. But, doctors cannot be certain if there were other reasons for this. It is important to remember that there are more deaths in children related to illnesses like influenza or even chickenpox.

In short, it is worth being aware that PIMS exists and to be aware of how it might present. As it is so rare, it is not something that you should be overly concerned about. But, if you do have concerns you should get in touch with your GP to discuss things further. 

Dr Kat Kunert, Private GP

Coyne Medical, Parsons Green