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.
Kawasaki Disease Symptoms
At first, your child may have:
- High fever lasting for at least 5 days
- Red or bloodshot whites of the eyes due to conjunctivitis
- 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
Diagnosing Kawasaki Disease
Because Kawasaki disease can imitate many other illnesses, your doctor will use several tests in addition to a physical exam.
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.
Your doctor may also order an echocardiogram, which is an ultrasound of your child's heart. This test can help show problems in the arteries.
Kawasaki Disease Treatment
At UVA Health Children's, 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
If your child has had Kawasaki disease, we will want to follow-up to make sure there is no lasting damage. Your provider will give you a schedule for your follow up appointments.
Even after they stop being seen, your child will need to live a heart-healthy lifestyle following treatment including not smoking, eating well, and getting exercise.