What is kawasaki disease?

Kawasaki Disease

Kawasaki disease in children: Overview

Kawasaki disease is a rare illness that usually affects children younger than 5 years. It causes fever; red eyes; skin rash; red, swollen tongue; and dry, cracked lips. Sometimes skin peels off the hands and feet in big pieces. The child can have nausea, vomiting, diarrhea, and joint and belly pain.

Doctors do not know what causes Kawasaki disease. It is not passed from one person to another.

Kawasaki disease is usually treated with medicine given through a needle into a vein. Your child may need to stay in the hospital for a couple of days. Your child may also take aspirin for a few weeks to reduce inflammation and prevent blood clots. This is one of the very few times a doctor would consider giving aspirin to your child.

Early treatment can shorten the illness and help prevent blood vessel and heart damage. Most children recover fully and can return to their normal life in a couple of months. But Kawasaki disease that is not treated can cause serious heart damage and death.

Kawasaki disease

Kawasaki disease is a severe, noncontagious childhood illness that causes inflammation of the blood vessels.

Symptoms of Kawasaki disease include a fever for at least 5 days, red eyes, swollen red lips and tongue, a rash, swollen feet and hands, and swollen lymph nodes in the neck.

Early diagnosis and treatment can decrease the length of the illness and can help prevent blood vessel and heart damage. Most children have no long-term problems. In rare cases, the damage can lead to a heart attack.

What happens when a child has Kawasaki disease?

It may be a few weeks before your child feels completely well. But most children who have Kawasaki disease get better and have no long-term problems. Early treatment is important, because it shortens the illness and lowers the chances of heart problems. Follow-up tests can help you and your doctor be sure that the disease did not cause heart problems.

Some children will have damage to the coronary arteries. An artery may get too large and form an aneurysm. Or the arteries may narrow or be at risk for blood clots. A child who has damaged coronary arteries may be more likely to have a heart attack as a young adult. If your child is affected, know what to watch for and when to seek care.

What are the symptoms of Kawasaki disease?

Symptoms of Kawasaki disease include:

  • A fever lasting at least 5 days.
  • Red eyes.
  • A body rash.
  • Swollen, red, cracked lips and tongue.
  • Swollen, red feet and hands.
  • Swollen lymph nodes in the neck.
Get medical help right away if your child has symptoms of Kawasaki disease. Early diagnosis and treatment can often prevent future heart problems.

How is Kawasaki disease treated?

Treatment for Kawasaki disease starts in the hospital. It often includes immunoglobulin medicine to reduce inflammation. The doctor will likely give your child aspirin to reduce fever and lower the risk of blood clots. Some children also get steroid medicine. It can reduce problems with the heart arteries.

How is Kawasaki disease diagnosed?

Kawasaki disease can be hard to diagnose, because there is not a test for it. Your doctor may diagnose Kawasaki disease if both of these things are true:

  • Your child has a fever that lasts at least 5 days.
  • Your child has a few of the other five symptoms of Kawasaki disease.

Your child may also have routine lab tests. And the doctor may order an echocardiogram to check for heart problems.

After your child gets better, he or she will need checkups to watch for heart problems.

How can you care for your child who has Kawasaki disease?

You can care for your child by giving them any medicines as instructed and making sure they rest when tired. Help your child avoid activities that might cause injury, especially if your child takes aspirin. Keep them away from anyone with the flu or chickenpox. Use unscented lotion to keep your child's skin moist.

What is Kawasaki disease?

Kawasaki disease is a rare childhood illness that affects the blood vessels. The symptoms can be severe for several days. But with treatment, most children return to normal activities.

Kawasaki disease can harm the coronary arteries, which carry blood to the heart muscle. Most children who are treated recover from the disease without long-term problems. Your doctor will watch your child for heart problems for a few weeks to a few months after treatment.

The disease is most common in children younger than age 5. It does not spread from child to child (is not contagious).

What causes Kawasaki disease?

Experts don't know what causes the disease. The disease happens most often in the winter and early spring.

Kawasaki disease in children: When to call

Call 911 anytime you think your child may need emergency care. For example, call if:

  • Your child has chest pain or problems breathing.
  • Your child passes out (loses consciousness).

Call your doctor now or seek immediate medical care if:

  • Your child is exposed to a person with chickenpox, shingles, or influenza. Call your doctor right away. Your child is at greater risk of Reye syndrome when exposed to these conditions, so your child's doctor may need to change the medicines your child takes.
  • Your child has a fever.
  • Your child has severe belly pain or blood in the stool. This can be a sign of bleeding inside the body.
  • Your child has ringing in the ears, a headache, dizziness, or confusion. These may be caused by aspirin toxicity.

Watch closely for changes in your child's health, and be sure to contact your doctor if:

  • Your child does not get better as expected.

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