Dr. MJ Bazos MD,
What is Kawasaki
Kawasaki disease (say: "kah-wuh-sock-ee") is an
illness that young children can get (usually children under age 5). It can cause
any of these symptoms:
- Skin rash
- Bloodshot eyes
- Swollen lymph nodes
- Heart problems
- Joint problems
No one knows what causes Kawasaki disease. Some
doctors think it may be caused by a virus or a bacteria. The illness can last
from 2 weeks to a few months.
How does my doctor know my child has
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 with 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:
- 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
- Red, bloodshot eyes
Some children with Kawasaki
disease have diarrhea, vomiting and stomach pain. Kawasaki disease might make
your child very irritable and cross.
How serious is Kawasaki
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 with
Kawasaki disease get well with no problems. However, Kawasaki disease can cause
heart problems in 5% to 20% of untreated children. 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.
How is Kawasaki disease
Your doctor will prescribe medicines to make
your child feel better and to prevent the problems Kawasaki disease can cause.
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.)
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.
How soon will my child be over the
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.