IrishA similar case in an adolescent, also with ulcers affecting the mouth and penis, was reported earlier in 2021 in the United States.
“Our cases show that a swab for COVID-19 can be added to the list of investigations for mucosal and cutaneous rashes in children and probably adults,” said dermatologist Stephanie Bowe, MD, of South Infirmary-Victoria University Hospital in Cork, Ireland, in an interview. “Our patients seemed to improve with IV steroids, but there is not enough data to recommend them to all patients or for use in the different cutaneous presentations associated with COVID-19.”
Researchers have noted that skin disorders linked to COVID-19 infection are different than those in adults. In children, the conditions include morbilliform rash, pernio-like acral lesions, urticaria, macular erythema, vesicular eruption, papulosquamous eruption, and retiform purpura. “The pathogenesis of each is not fully understood but likely related to the inflammatory response to COVID-19 and the various pathways within the body, which become activated,” Dr. Bowe said.
The first patient, a 17-year-old boy, presented at clinic 6 days after he’d been confirmed to be infected with COVID-19 and 8 days after developing fever and cough. “He had a 2-day history of conjunctivitis and ulceration of his oral mucosa, erythematous circumferential erosions of the glans penis with no other cutaneous findings,” the authors write in the report.
The boy “was distressed and embarrassed about his genital ulceration and also found eating very painful due to his oral ulceration,” Dr. Bowe said.
The second patient, a 14-year-old boy, was hospitalized 7 days after a positive COVID-19 test and 9 days after developing cough and fever. “He had a 5-day history of ulceration of the oral mucosa with mild conjunctivitis,” the authors wrote. “Ulceration of the glans penis developed on day 2 of admission.”
The 14-year-old was sicker than the 17-year-old boy, Dr. Bowe said. “He was unable to tolerate an oral diet for several days and had exquisite pain and vomiting with his coughing fits.”
This patient had a history of recurrent herpes labialis, but it’s unclear whether herpes simplex virus (HSV) played a role in the COVID-19–related case. “There is a possibility that the patient was more susceptible to viral cutaneous reactions during COVID-19 infection, but we didn’t have any definite history of HSV infection at the time of mucositis,” Dr. Bowe said. “We also didn’t have any swabs positive for HSV even though several were done at the time.”
Both patients received IV steroids – hydrocortisone at 100 mg 3 times daily for 3 days. This treatment was used “because of deterioration in symptoms and COVID-19 infection,” Dr. Bowe said. “IV steroids were used for respiratory symptoms of COVID-19, so we felt these cutaneous symptoms may have also been caused by an inflammatory response and might benefit from steroids. There was very little literature about this specific situation, though.”
She added that intravenous steroids wouldn’t be appropriate for most pediatric patients, and noted that “their use is controversial in the literature for erythema multiforme and RIME.”
In addition, the patients received betamethasone valerate 0.1% ointment once daily, hydrocortisone 2.5 mg buccal tablets 4 times daily, analgesia with acetaminophen and ibuprofen, and intravenous hydration. The first patient also received prednisolone 1% eye drops, while the second patient was given lidocaine hydrochloride mouthwash and total parenteral nutrition for 5 days.
The patients were discharged after 4 and 14 days, respectively.
Dermatologists in Massachusetts reported a similar case earlier in 2021 in a 17-year-old boy who was positive for COVID-19 and presented with “shallow erosions of the vermilion lips and hard palate, circumferential erythematous erosions of the periurethral glans penis, and five small vesicles on the trunk and upper extremities.”
The patient received betamethasone valerate 0.1% ointment for the lips and penis, intraoral dexamethasone solution, viscous lidocaine, acetaminophen, and ibuprofen. He also received oral prednisone at approximately 1 mg/kg daily for 4 consecutive days after worsening oral pain. A recurrence of oral pain 3 months later was resolved with a higher and longer treatment with oral prednisone.
The authors report no study funding and disclosed no relevant financial relationships.
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