Kawasaki Disease: What Parents Should Know

Kawasaki Disease: What Parents Should Know

Richard Kang, MD Blog

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Kawasaki Disease is a childhood illness that affects the skin, mouth and lymph nodes. The cause is unknown, as no bacterial or viral source has been found. In most cases, it is not serious and the child will fully recover. Even so, it can be scary for parents who don’t know what to expect. To be prepared, here’s everything you should know about Kawasaki Disease.


1. Early Detection is Key.


It’s important to diagnose Kawasaki disease early and begin treatment in order to prevent other health complications that can result from the illness. Kawasaki Disease has similar symptoms to other viral and bacterial infections, so it is often not taken seriously enough.


2. Know the Symptoms.


Phase 1 is a fever that persists for more than 5 days and up to 2 weeks. The other symptoms include:

  • severe redness in the eyes
  • a rash on the stomach, chest, and genitals
  • red, dry, cracked lips
  • swollen tongue with a white coating and big red bumps (called “strawberry tongue”)
  • sore, irritated throat
  • swollen palms of the hands and soles of the feet with a purple-red color
  • swollen lymph nodes

In phase 2 of the disease, the skin of the hands and feet begin peeling in large pieces, accompanied by joint pain, diarrhea, vomiting, and/or abdominal pain. This usually develops within 2 weeks of the onset of fever. 


3. Seek Immediate Treatment.


The sooner treatment can begin, the faster the child will recover and the lower the risk of complications. Ideally, medical intervention within 10 days of the onset of fever offers the best chance of avoiding the serious complications that can occur from this disease. Treatment involves an intravenous dose of gamma globulin (purified antibodies) to help the body fight the infection. In some cases, aspirin may be given to lower the risk of heart problems. With treatment, most children start to feel better in just a few days.


4. Possible Complications.


If a case of Kawasaki Disease goes untreated for longer than 10 days, serious heart complications can occur. One such problem that can result from untreated Kawasaki Disease is vasculitis, an inflammation of the blood vessels. This can affect the coronary arteries that supply blood directly to the heart. The inflammation can also affect the heart muscles, lining, valves, and outer membrane around the heart. Arrhythmias (irregular heart beat) can also occur.


5. Ethnicity is a Factor.


Kawasaki Disease is most often seen in children of Japanese or Korean descent. However, it can affect children of any ethnicity, so it’s best to be well-informed and vigilant.


6. Age is a Factor.


Kawasaki Disease is most common in children under the age of 5. It can still occur in older children, but is not nearly as likely.


7. Follow-up Care May Be Needed.


Even if a child makes a full recovery, it may still be necessary to have a follow-up visit with a cardiologist to rule out any potential heart problems. This is a precautionary measure, but a wise one.


8. Get the Flu Vaccination if Taking Aspirin.


If your child is prescribed aspirin following Kawasaki Disease, it is important to avoid viral infections such as the flu. Taking aspirin during a viral infection can cause a rare illness called Reyes Syndrome that affects the brain and liver.


CORE Medical & Wellness Offers Treatment for Kawasaki Disease


Kawasaki Disease can be treated through natural means at CORE Medical & Wellness. If you think your child may be suffering from Kawasaki Disease, call (888) 521-0688 right away to make an appointment. Early diagnosis and treatment is critical, so don’t wait. Your little one could be feeling better in a matter of days and make a full recovery with the right intervention at the right time.

Dr. Richard Kang is double board certified in anesthesiology and pain medicine, and he  completed an interventional pain medicine fellowship at the prestigious New York Presbyterian Hospital / Columbia University – College of Physicians and Surgeons.  Read his full bio here.