What is Kawasaki Disease?
This type of disease is not heard of often, so you might wonder: What is Kawasaki disease? Kawasaki disease, also known as mucocutaneous lymph node syndrome, is an illness caused by the inflammation of the blood vessels throughout the body. It is a rare condition that occurs when the arteries, veins, and capillaries become swollen.
It can affect children of any age, but it is most common in kids 5 years old and younger. It is also more often in boys than in girls.
The exact cause of Kawasaki disease has not yet been found. Some research shows that it might be related to genes, viruses, bacteria, and other environmental factors. Other studies show that this disease is possibly an autoimmune disorder or an abnormal response of the body to a common virus. It might be caused by specific toxic substances, called bacterial “superantigens,” produced by particular types of bacteria. Further research is still being done.
Kawasaki disease is not yet proven to be contagious and inherited. Still, the risk factor increases if a child has siblings who also has the same condition.
What Are the Common Signs and Symptoms of Kawasaki Disease?
The signs and symptoms of Kawasaki disease develop in stages or phases. This means that the symptoms may not be present at the same time.
During the first phase, your child may have a high fever that does not go down, even if they take fever medicine. This may last for five days or more.
Early symptoms may include:
- Sore throat
- Dry mouth
- Cracked lips
- Swollen, bright red tongue called a “strawberry tongue”
- Red, bloodshot eyes
- Pink rash on the back, belly, arms, legs, in the genital or diaper area
- Swollen lymph glands in the neck
- Hands and feet with purple-red color
Usually, two weeks after the fever started, the second phase of symptoms begins. Peeling skin appears on the hands and feet, especially in finger and toe areas.
Your child may begin to become more irritable due to joint and stomach pain. They may also experience diarrhea and vomiting.
It is best to bring your child to the doctor if they experience any of these symptoms, especially if they have a fever above 101F for more than four days.
What Are the Possible Complications of Kawasaki Disease?
Kawasaki disease can lead to complications affecting the heart. Although, in most cases, when treated early, your child will recover in a few weeks without any lasting problem.
Kawasaki disease is one of the leading causes of severe heart diseases in children. Some of the complications that a child can have are dysrhythmia (unusual heart rhythms), myocarditis (heart muscle inflammation), mitral regurgitation (damaged heart valves), and vasculitis (blood vessel inflammation).
There are rare cases where even children who have been treated for this disease will develop coronary artery aneurysms and abnormal dilation of the arteries around the heart. This happens when blood passes through a weakened artery wall. The blood pressure causes the arteries to bulge outwards. Children younger than 1 year old are at high risk of having these complications.
If your child has recovered from Kawasaki disease, they should have follow-up visits with their doctor to make sure their heart is functioning well.
How is Kawasaki Disease Treated?
As soon as your child is diagnosed with Kawasaki disease, the treatment should begin immediately. Your child has to be admitted to the hospital to prevent the risk of complications.
They will undergo a medication called intravenous (IV) dose of immune globulin or IVIG. It is a solution of antibodies that helps fight infection. It will be given through a vein for 8 to 12 hours.
Along with this medication, your child may be given a high dose of aspirin to treat inflammation and lower the risk of heart problems. The dosage will be given by mouth. Take note that aspirin should only be given to young children under doctor’s supervision, to mitigate the risk of a liver condition called Reye’s syndrome in children who take aspirin.
Immune globulin and aspirin are the two primary medicines used to treat Kawasaki disease. In case your child does not respond well to a single dose of IVIG, an additional dose may be needed. Other medications, such as corticosteroids, infliximab, or etanercept, may be recommended.
Corticosteroids are a type of drug that contains potent chemicals that have a wide range of effects on the body. It lowers inflammation in the body and can help prevent coronary aneurysms.
Upon discharge from the hospital, your child may be prescribed with a low dose aspirin to be taken orally every day for six to eight weeks. They may appear tired for several weeks, so allowing them to rest is very important.
After the treatment, it is crucial to monitor your child’s heart condition. They may be scheduled for an echocardiogram to check for the development of coronary aneurysms. If there are indications of heart problems, the doctors may require follow-up tests, and they may refer your child to a pediatric cardiologist.
You should bring your child to the doctor if they develop a fever or any of the symptoms again. Timely treatment is significant to have a positive long-term outcome for children with Kawasaki disease.