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COVID-19 and Myocarditis in Children: What Parents Should Know

Medically reviewed by Mae Charisse Antalan, MD · General Practitioner


Written by Fiel Tugade · Updated Mar 13, 2023

COVID-19 and Myocarditis in Children: What Parents Should Know

On February 2, the Department of Health (DOH) recorded an increase in COVID-19 cases among children ages 5 and under. Despite the ongoing vaccination for kids ages 5-11, many parents are worried about the likelihood of their children having myocarditis. F0r some, this concern is making them hesitant to allow their children to get the COVID-19 vaccine. But should it really hinder vaccination for this age group? Find out here. 

What Is Myocarditis?

Myocarditis refers to an inflammation that takes place in the heart’s muscle (myocardium). It takes place when the body’s immune system, for instance, responds to infections. Myocarditis can also occur due to viral infections, as well as more systemic inflammatory conditions like autoimmune disorders. 

In severe cases, the inflammation causes the heart to enlarge and weaken, as well as to form scar tissue. It then requires the heart to work harder to effectively pump blood to other parts of the body.  

Myocarditis comes in a variety of forms, some of which are:

  • Acute myocarditis. This type is characterized by a recent or rapid onset of myocarditis, which is typically caused by a viral infection. It can strike suddenly, and symptoms can fade quickly as well.
  • Chronic myocarditis. As the name implies, this variety occurs when the condition takes more time to treat than usual. It may also cause symptoms to reoccur later on. This can come as a result of more general inflammatory conditions, like autoimmune disorders.
    • Lymphocytic myocarditis. This is a rare type of myocarditis that demands hospitalization for treatment. It happens when white blood cells (lymphocytes) reach the heart muscle and lead to inflammation. This often takes place as a result of a virus.

    What Causes Pediatric Myocarditis?

    In young children, myocarditis is not common. It affects slightly older children and adults. It is frequently more severe in newborns and young infants than in children over the age of two.

    The most common viruses that cause pediatric myocarditis include:

    • Parvovirus
    • Influenza virus
    • Adenovirus and Coxsackievirus
    • Viruses such as rubella, rubeola, and HIV

    Bacteria, such as those that cause Lyme disease, Rocky Mountain spotted fever, or toxic shock syndrome can cause myocarditis in rare cases. 

    Among the other causes of pediatric myocarditis are:

    • Certain medications that cause allergic reactions
    • Chemical exposure in the environment
    • Infections from fungi or parasites
    • Radiation
    • Some diseases (autoimmune disorders) cause widespread inflammation in the body
    • Some medications

    myocarditis

    What Are the Signs and Symptoms?

    Initially, the symptoms may be mild and difficult to detect. 

    When a child develops the condition, they may experience some common signs and symptoms, including but not limited to the following:

    • Nausea and pain in the abdomen
    • Chest pain
    • Coughs
    • Fatigue
    • Edema (swelling) of the legs, feet, and face
    • Fever
    • Fainting
    • Breathing difficulties (shortness of breath)
    • Rapid Breathing
    • Heart rhythms that are too fast or too slow (arrhythmias)

    Worried About COVID-19? Try This Risk Screener

    Should You Be Worried About Myocarditis After COVID-19 Vaccination for Kids?

    The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention has identified several cases of myocarditis as a rare side effect of mRNA COVID-19 vaccination. This side effect is much more common in male teenagers and young adults than in other ages. It usually occurs within a week of vaccination after the second dose. 

    In another light, CDC also noted that most patients who received care for myocarditis or pericarditis responded well to medication and rest. After their symptoms have subsided, patients can usually resume their normal daily activities.

    In a media briefing, DOH’s Health Undersecretary Maria Rosario Vergeire stated that while adverse events following immunization (AEFIs) are “rare occurrences” among vaccinated children, mild reactions such as headaches and pain at injection sites are still possible.

    Vergeire said that based on the most recent global vaccine data, only 0.00013%, or 11 out of 8.1 million vaccinated children worldwide, had myocarditis, and none were from the Philippines.

    Should You Still Get Your Child the COVID-19 Vaccine?

    Yes. Both CDC and the American Academy of Pediatrics (AAP) recommend that all children 5 years and older should get the vaccine. 

    The known risks for COVID-19 and its potentially severe complications, such as long-term health problems, hospitalization, and even death, are far grater than the risk of having a rare adverse reaction to vaccination, including the risk of myocarditis or pericarditis.

    Key Takeaways

    It’s natural for parents to be worried about any vaccine side effects your child may experience. However, the risks of side effects must be balanced against the risks of infection.

    If you have any questions about the COVID-19 vaccine, communicate with your child’s pediatrician. Seek medical attention if your child exhibits any of the symptoms of myocarditis, especially if these occur within a week of receiving the COVID-19 vaccine.

    Learn more about Coronavirus here

    Disclaimer

    Hello Health Group does not provide medical advice, diagnosis or treatment.

    Medically reviewed by

    Mae Charisse Antalan, MD

    General Practitioner


    Written by Fiel Tugade · Updated Mar 13, 2023

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