Experts from the Evelina Children's Hospital are trying to alert parents to the dangers and symptoms of the rare new inflammatory disease affecting children and linked to coronavirus.

The rare condition emerged after a cluster of cases in south east London in May last year, seemingly triggered by Covid-19, leaving dozens of children in hospital and some as young as 14 even dying.

One Sidcup mum saw both her sons, aged 11 and 13, suffer from a high temperature and severe stomach pains before taking them to hospital.

She ended up being glad she did, as both were treated successfully for the new disease, but she has added her voice to concerns over the condition, stressing that when it strikes, it can cause children to deteriorate quickly.

News Shopper: Sidcup mum Emily West and familySidcup mum Emily West and family

According to experts from Evelina London, the condition is called Paediatric Multisystem Inflammatory Syndrome (called PIMS-TS or PIMS for short).

It is a delayed response from the body to overcome the virus, causing different symptoms to Covid-19, but can be detected early and treated successfully.

Many children who experience PIMS-TS may not have previously been unwell or had Covid-19 symptoms, and whilst rare, those who do get it usually require hospital treatment due to its severity.

It was first reported by the News Shoper that a cluster of child cases of a new, rare inflammatory disease linked to coronavirus had been detected in south east London back in May, although nothing was known about the condition.

Over 40 children were affected in Southwark and Woolwich, mostly being treated at the Evelina Children's Hospital, and one 14-year-old boy had died from the 'new phenomenon' which had been compared to Kawasaki disease. More is now know.

Dr Jenny Handforth, consultant in paediatric infectious diseases at Evelina London said: “Whilst children and young people tend to only get mild symptoms with COVID-19, the very small number of children who get PIMS-TS usually require hospital treatment as it is a serious condition.

"The children and young people we’ve seen with PIMS-TS have responded very well to the hospital treatment. We continue to monitor them through regular check-ups afterwards.

“So while this illness is rare, it’s something we need families to be aware of so they know what to look out for and when to contact a health professional if they are worried about their child.”

Symptoms of PIMS-TS can include:

  • a prolonged fever (higher than 38C)
  • tummy ache
  • diarrhoea and/or vomiting
  • widespread red rash
  • red bloodshot eyes, strawberry red tongue, or red cracked lips
  • swelling of fingers and toes
  • not feeling or acting like themselves.

If your child has any of the following symptoms you should call your GP or call NHS 111 for advice. If your child develops chest pain, please call 999 immediately.

Emily West, a mum of two from Sidcup, saw her 13-year-old son Lennie successfully treated at Evelina London for PIMS-TS in May 2020.

Then again in January 2021, her 11-year-old Alfie developed a high temperature and severe stomach pains.

Emily took him to Evelina's emergency department as she was concerned he had developed PIMS-TS after she recognised the symptoms.

“I didn’t want to seem like I was over-reacting, dragging him straight up to the hospital, but I’m glad I did," said Emily.

"After running tests and monitoring Alfie, doctors began to treat him for PIMS-TS. After a few days he was well enough to go home, and the same evening he was back to playing on his computer and talking to his friends."

She said the hospital was "amazing,", adding "what they do is amazing, and they got both of my boys better."

"Alfie has a few follow up appointments, heart scans and blood tests, and aspirin to take, but I know in a few weeks it will all be done and they both got through it.”

Evelina were among the first in the world to report PIMS-TS as a new condition in April last year, quickly working with other London hospitals to analyse data during the first peak of the pandemic to improve the understanding and treatment of the disease.

Over the last year they have continued to review evidence and improve treatments, and take part in pioneering research to understand any longer-term impacts.