Kawasaki disease is a rare childhood disease that causes swelling and irritation (inflammation) of the walls of blood vessels, especially heart arteries. With treatment, most children recover completely. If this disease is not treated, it can cause some serious problems. For example, it can affect the coronary arteries, which are the blood vessels that bring oxygen and blood to the heart muscle. Changes in these blood vessels can cause blood clots and serious heart problems.
Kawasaki disease usually affects children between the ages of 6 months and 5 years.
The cause of this disease is not known. The body's response to infection with bacteria or a virus, combined with genetic factors, may cause the disease. However, no specific bacteria or virus has been found as a definite cause.
The disease is more common in Asian countries, but there are also outbreaks in the US in late winter and spring every few years. Children in the same family are more likely to get Kawasaki disease. Children whose parents had the disease may have a more severe form of the disease.
The disease does not appear to be pass from one child to another. Your child won't get it from close contact with a child who has the disease.
Symptoms may include:
Your child also may be irritable and have a sore throat, joint pain, diarrhea, vomiting, and stomach pain.
Your child's healthcare provider will ask about your child’s symptoms and medical history and examine your child. If your child has had a fever for many days and also has 4 or 5 of the other symptoms listed above, your provider will probably diagnose your child with Kawasaki disease. A diagnosis called atypical Kawasaki syndrome may be made if your child has a fever and fewer than 4 of the symptoms.
Tests may include:
Treatment is focused on lowering the fever and protecting the heart from damage. At first your child may need to stay in the hospital. Your child may be given high doses of aspirin to treat the inflammation and fever. Kawasaki disease is one of the few times when aspirin is used to treat children.
Then your child’s healthcare provider may prescribe long-term treatment with low doses of aspirin to help prevent blood clots.
Children and teens who get a viral infection, like the flu or chickenpox, while they are taking aspirin are at risk for a serious illness called Reye's syndrome. Your child may need to stop taking aspirin if he or she has a viral infection.
An IV medicine called immune globulin may be given to help protect your child’s arteries and heart.
If Kawasaki disease has affected your child's coronary arteries, your child will need ongoing care and treatment. Your child will need to be seen regularly by a pediatric heart specialist (cardiologist).
Most children who have Kawasaki disease usually recover within weeks of getting symptoms. It’s very rare for a child to get this disease more than once.
Follow your child’s healthcare provider's instructions.
Ask your provider:
Make sure you know when your child should come back for a checkup.