Kawasaki Disease

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Kawasaki disease affects children under five years old. This illness causes irritation and swelling of the skin, mouth and lymph nodes. When it worsens, the disease can cause swelling in the coronary arteries, which can cause heart problems, like weakened blood vessels and heart attack. 

While we don't know exactly what causes Kawasaki disease — theories point to viruses, environmental factors, genetics — no evidence shows the disease to be contagious.

Signs of Kawasaki

At first, your child may have:

  • High fever lasting for at least 5 days
  • Irritability
  • Red or bloodshot whites of the eyes due to conjunctivitis
  • Rash
  • Soreness and swelling of the mouth, lips, throat
  • Strawberry tongue — white/yellow coating and bright red bumps on tongue
  • Swollen hands and feet that may look red
  • Swollen lymph nodes in the neck

Within two weeks of a fever, your child may also have:

  • Skin peeling on hands and feet
  • Joint problems
  • Diarrhea, vomiting, abdominal pain    

Your child’s pediatrician will use blood and urine tests for diagnosis, along with heart imaging and measuring electrical activity of your child’s heart with an EKG.

Treating Kawasaki Disease 

At UVA, our pediatric cardiology expertise can help limit the damage Kawasaki disease can do to your child’s heart.

The key to effective treatment is early treatment, including:

  • Intravenous Gamma Globulin – giving this infection-fighting protein to your child through an IV can reduce the risk of heart complications
  • Aspirin can ease swelling, fever, rashes and prevent blood clots
  • Steroid or joint inflammation medication can control inflammation