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Louisiana opens first post-COVID rehab unit for children

During this pandemic, doctors across the country started noticing a reaction to the coronavirus in some children.

NEW ORLEANS — For the last few months, doctors tell us they are seeing lingering health problems and side effects in people who recover from COVID-19, but it's not only happening to adults. It's affecting young children as well. Now there’s the first children's rehabilitation unit to open in the state for these young patients. 

During this pandemic, doctors across the country started noticing a reaction to the coronavirus in some children.  What they said resembled Kawasaki disease, now has a name MultiSystem Inflammatory Syndrome, or MIS-C.

“And it is very similar to Kawasaki (disease) in that it attacks sort of the immune system and is attacking different parts of the body and affecting different organs,” explained Dr. Scott Schultz, an LSUHSC Physical Medicine and Rehabilitation specialist who practices at Children’s Hospital New Orleans.

It's unclear why in some children the immune system overreacts when fighting SARS-CoV-2.

“There are over 13,000 children in Louisiana who are diagnosed with COVID-19 and only a very small subset of have MIS-C, so when you look at the majority of kids, they make a full recovery.”

And while it is a small subset of children, according to a CDC map, Louisiana is one of the top eight states with MIS-C cases. Dr. Schultz  says after children recover, there can be health problems.

“We do have children who have persistent lingering symptoms, physically, cognitively, and emotionally,” he said.

“Whether it's that they can't play basketball as well as their peers because they're deconditioned, whether they feel anxious because of having COVID and the stigma associated with their peers, or if they're having problems with memory processing and brain fogginess, we want to get them back to where they were.”

So last week, Children's Hospital opened a specialized out-patient rehabilitation unit. It's similar to the physical therapy unit for children with other conditions.  The new clinic is the first and only post COVID-19 rehab in the state and region. Dr. Schultz  will work alongside psychologists and physical therapists to return children to full health. 

“Our goal is to optimize function when they get back into their home, school, community environments. We want these kids to thrive and we want them to get back to what they were doing beforehand,” said Dr. Schultz.

 And doctors want to help their families get through this tough time.

Contact Children's Hospital if your child needs this program. Doctors will make sure that children test negative 30 days after their diagnosis, so they are not contagious.

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