Kawasaki Disease

Overview

What is Kawasaki disease?

Kawasaki (say: "kah-wuh-sock-ee") disease is an illness that young children can get (usually children younger than 5 years of age).

How soon will my child be over Kawasaki disease?

It usually takes a few weeks for a child to get over Kawasaki disease. You’ll have to keep your child home from school or day care until he or she feels strong enough to return.

Symptoms

What are the symptoms of Kawasaki disease?

Children who have Kawasaki disease have a fever (sometimes as high as 104°F) for 5 days or longer. Usually, they also have at least 4 of the following symptoms:

Some children who have Kawasaki disease also have diarrhea, vomiting and stomach pain. Kawasaki disease might make your child very irritable and cross.

  • A red, patchy rash that may cover the whole body

  • Swollen lymph nodes in the neck

  • Swollen and red hands and feet and, later in the illness, peeling skin on the fingers and toes

  • Changes in the lips and mouth, such as red, cracked lips, a very red tongue and redness in the mouth and the back of the throat

  • Red, bloodshot eyes

Causes & Risk Factors

What causes Kawasaki disease?

No one knows what causes Kawasaki disease. Some doctors think it may be caused by a virus or bacteria. The illness can last from 2 weeks to a few months.

Diagnosis & Tests

How does my doctor know my child has Kawasaki disease?

Your doctor has given your child an exam and asked about his or her symptoms. There isn’t a special test for Kawasaki disease, but your doctor may do some tests to see if another illness could be causing the symptoms.

Children who have Kawasaki disease have a fever (sometimes as high as 104°F) for 5 days or longer. Usually, they also have at least 4 of the following symptoms:

Some children who have Kawasaki disease also have diarrhea, vomiting and stomach pain. Kawasaki disease might make your child very irritable and cross.

  • A red, patchy rash that may cover the whole body

  • Swollen lymph nodes in the neck

  • Swollen and red hands and feet and, later in the illness, peeling skin on the fingers and toes

  • Changes in the lips and mouth, such as red, cracked lips, a very red tongue and redness in the mouth and the back of the throat

  • Red, bloodshot eyes

Treatment

How is Kawasaki disease treated?

Your doctor will prescribe medicines to make your child feel better and to prevent the problems Kawasaki disease can cause.

Your doctor might also give your child a medicine called immunoglobulin to help prevent heart problems. Immunoglobulin is given intravenously (through your child’s veins) for several hours. It has to be given in the hospital.

Your doctor may give your child high doses of aspirin to lower the fever. Aspirin also helps with the rash and the joint pain. It can keep your child’s blood from making clots. After the fever goes down, your doctor might give your child a lower dose of aspirin for several weeks to reduce the chance of heart problems. (However, if your child gets the flu or chickenpox during this time, you’ll have to stop giving your child aspirin for a while. When children take aspirin during the flu or chickenpox, they might get another illness called Reye’s syndrome. For this reason, don’t give your child aspirin unless your doctor tells you to.)

Complications

How serious is Kawasaki disease?

It can make you a little scared to find out your child has Kawasaki disease. Your child won’t feel well, and the rash and other signs of Kawasaki disease may look scary. Just remember that most children who have Kawasaki disease get well with no problems.

However, Kawasaki disease can cause heart problems in 1 out of every 50 children affected by the disease. If your child gets heart problems from Kawasaki disease, your doctor will talk with you about any special care your child needs.

Kawasaki disease can also cause problems like swelling in your child’s joints, but these problems usually go away without special treatment. It helps if your doctor finds out about the Kawasaki disease at an early stage and starts treatment soon. Early treatment means your child probably won’t get lasting heart problems or joint problems.

Questions to Ask Your Doctor

  • Could my child have the flu or a cold instead?

  • What is the best thing I can do to make my child more comfortable while he/she has Kawasaki disease?

  • Should I keep my other children away from my child while he/she has Kawasaki disease?

  • What medicines can help my child?

  • Is it safe to give my child aspirin?

  • When should I call if my child gets worse?

  • My child is complaining about his/her joints hurting. What should I do?

  • My child has a rash. Can I use an ointment to make him/her feel better?

  • Should I tell my child’s school/daycare provider that he/she has Kawasaki disease?

  • Could I get Kawasaki disease from my child?

Citations

  • Kawasaki Disease by KA Taubert, ST Shulman( 06/01/99, http://www.aafp.org/afp/990600ap/3093.html)