A grieving mum whose eight-month-old baby died of a rare illness linked to coronavirus has begged parents to be "vigilant" to the symptoms.

Alexander Parsons, from Plymouth, Devon, died at Bristol Children's Hospital last month after being diagnosed with Kawasaki disease, his family said.

He is believed to be the youngest victim of the disease, an illness which inflames blood vessels.

The Sunday Mirror first reported how Alexander had no underlying health conditions and died just two hours after an adorable photo was taken of him smiling and playing.

His mum, Kathryn Rowlands, 29, said in a new interview: "I can't change anything about what happened to Alexander; we thought we were taking all of the precautions to protect ourselves and him from Covid-19, and it still happened to us.

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Alexander Parsons, aged just eight months, died two hours after this photo was taken

"We were in isolation, we weren't even risking going to a shop because we were concerned, and it still happened to us.

"It can happen to anyone and I can't change what has happened to him, but I can make other parents aware and potentially help other babies and children."

Medical experts believe up to 100 children in the UK have been affected by a condition similar to the rare disease, symptoms of which include a high temperature, rashes and swelling.

Parents Jon Parsons and Kathryn Rowlands with their son Alexander
Alexander developed a rash and was diagnosed with Kawasaki disease

Researchers have said the new syndrome could be caused by the immune system overreacting to Covid-19.

The illness usually affects children under five – but pandemic-hit Europe has seen more than 200 suspected cases in children up to 14.

Following her son's death, Ms Rowlands is trying to raise awareness about the disease so parents know how to spot the signs.

She called 111 when Alexander began to show a high temperature, a pinprick rash that looked like sunburn and a swelling in his lymph nodes.

He was admitted to Derriford Hospital in Plymouth in the first week of April and received treatment for Kawasaki disease, before being discharged home on April 18.

Due to restrictions on hospital visits in response to the coronavirus crisis, Ms Rowlands and partner Jon Parsons, 30, were not able to visit their only child on the ward at the same time.

"He was really, really happy (after being discharged), it was the first time since it had all started that he was able to spend time with both me and Jon together," she said.

Alexander is believed to be the UK's youngest victim of Kawasaki disease
Alexander's mum is calling for more research into the disease

But Alexander was re-admitted to hospital on April 21 and, following a heart scan, was transferred to Bristol Children's Hospital.

On April 25, Ms Rowlands said the couple were told Alexander had multiple giant aneurysms and fluid around the heart.

Despite the diagnosis, she said he was smiling and playing with both of his parents that afternoon but his condition deteriorated in the evening.

"It was just something different about his crying that made me think I need to pace around, sing to him, he really needs to calm down," Ms Rowlands said.

Alexander was "infectiously smiley", his heartbroken mum says
Alexander tested negative for Covid-19 four times while in hospital

"I had taken two or three steps when his head went back and I knew something was wrong."

Medical staff spent nearly an hour trying to revive Alexander, who had no underlying health conditions, but he died after suffering a ruptured aneurysm.

Agonisingly, Covid-19 restrictions meant Alex’s dad Jon could not be there when his son died.

Jon previously told the Sunday Mirror: “It’s a two-and-a-half hour journey from the children’s hospital to home and only one of us could be with him at the time because of the virus.

Alexander had no underlying health conditions, his mum says

“I’d spent the day with him then headed home to get some sleep.

“I was getting ready for bed when I got a hysterical call from Kath. I couldn’t hear what she was saying so a nurse took the phone and explained Alex had had a cardiac arrest.”

Devon and Cornwall Police blue-lighted Jon to Bristol. But it was too late. “I found out it was over before I got there,” he said. “When we arrived the nurses led me into the room and Kath and Alex were both lying there. I hugged them.”

Although he tested negative for Covid-19 four times while in hospital, an antibody test is being conducted which will show if he previously had the virus.

The family are awaiting the results of a post-mortem examination

"The doctors and nurses were fantastic and they followed the guidelines that they had based on what was available to them at the time," Ms Rowlands said.

"But if there was more research then in these particular cases it might be tackled more aggressively, because this seems to be a more aggressive version of Kawasaki disease."

Health Secretary Matt Hancock said last month that experts are investigating the new syndrome in children "with great urgency" but has stressed it is rare.

Ms Rowlands said the family are awaiting the results of a post-mortem examination and are planning Alexander's funeral for the start of June.

"He was infectiously smiley, he loved so much and received that ten-fold from his entire family who adored him," she said.

"He never stopped laughing and smiling, even through this illness and teething and normal colds babies get, he was an absolute pleasure.

"I constantly felt so lucky that I got to be his mum and he will always be the best thing I have ever done."

A crowdfunding page has been set up by the family to raise awareness of the illness. You can donate here.

So far, the page has raised more tan £14,000.

Europe and the US have seen sharp surges of Covid-linked Kawasaki disease in recent weeks.

At least four other children – three in New York and one in France – have died from the condition.

The European Centre for Disease Prevention and Control said on Friday that Europe has seen about 230 suspected cases in children up to 14.

And doctors in Bergamo, Italy, have reported a 30-fold rise in similar disorders among young children.