Kawasaki Disease

What is Kawasaki disease?

Kawasaki disease is a rare illness. It can occur in infants and children younger than 5 years of age. Children of Japanese descent are more likely to have it than other races. The disease affects a child’s blood vessels. It causes swelling and can damage the coronary (heart) arteries.

Symptoms of Kawasaki disease

Children who have Kawasaki disease have a fever for 5 days or longer. Sometimes the fever can be as high as 104°F. Your child also will have 2 or more of the following symptoms:

  • a red, patchy rash that can cover the whole body
  • swollen lymph nodes in the neck
  • red, swollen hands and feet
  • peeling skin on the fingers and toes
  • red, bloodshot eyes
  • red, cracked lips, a red, swollen tongue, and redness in the mouth and the back of the throat.

Some children may have diarrhea, vomiting, and stomach pain. Kawasaki disease might make your child irritable. The illness can last for a few weeks.

What causes Kawasaki disease?

No one knows what causes Kawasaki disease. Some doctors think a virus or bacteria may cause it.

How is Kawasaki disease diagnosed?

Contact your doctor right away if your child shows signs of Kawasaki disease. The doctor will do a physical exam and review the symptoms. There is no special test for the condition. Your doctor may perform tests to rule out illnesses with similar symptoms. These include scarlet fever, Rocky Mountain spotted fever, and juvenile rheumatoid arthritis.

Can Kawasaki disease be prevented or avoided?

The condition cannot be prevented since there is no known cause.

Kawasaki disease treatment

The goal of treatment is to relieve symptoms and prevent long-term damage. Most children who have the rare disease require a hospital stay. The doctor will prescribe medicines. They may give high doses of aspirin to lower your child’s fever. It helps with the rash and joint pain. It can keep your child’s blood from forming clots. After the fever goes down, low doses of aspirin can reduce the chance of heart problems. Do not give your child aspirin without your doctor’s orders. It can cause side effects, depending on your child’s health history.

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

Children who have severe cases may require surgery. This repairs damaged blood vessels, or arteries.

Living with Kawasaki disease

Most children who receive treatment recover fine. Your child should rest and stay home from school or day care. Some children may need ongoing treatment. This is necessary if they suffer damage or are at risk of health disease.

Questions to ask your doctor

  • How do I know if my child has the flu or Kawasaki disease?
  • What is the best thing I can do to make my child more comfortable while they are sick?
  • Is it safe to give my child aspirin?
  • Are there any ointments that help with rash pain?
  • Is Kawasaki disease contagious?