Kawasaki disease is a rare illness that most commonly affects children ages 0 to 5, but can sometimes affect children up to the age of 13. It is a type of vasculitis. Vasculitis means inflammation of the blood vessels. It can affect the whole body, including the blood vessels of the heart (coronary arteries). The cause of Kawasaki disease is unknown. Without treatment, affected children are at higher risk of developing problems with the coronary arteries. Other areas of the heart may also be affected. With timely treatment, most children recover with no lasting problems.
These are common symptoms of Kawasaki disease:
The symptoms of Kawasaki disease can look like other health conditions. Make sure your child sees his or her healthcare provider for a diagnosis.
Lab tests. Blood and urine samples are taken to check for signs of inflammation. These are also used to help rule out other health problems.
Electrocardiography (ECG or EKG). This test records the electrical activity of the heart through small, sticky patches on the child's chest. The patches are connected to a machine with wires. The machine records the electrical activity. This helps check for problems with heart rhythm and heart structure.
Treatment will depend on your child’s symptoms, age, and general health. It will also depend on how severe the condition is. Treatment typically starts as soon as the problem is suspected. Your child may need to stay in the hospital for a few days or longer.
Your child's healthcare provider may prescribe aspirin or intravenous (IV) gamma globulin (IVIG). Corticosteroids and other medicines may also be prescribed if aspirin and IVIG don't work well.
Once your child is home, he or she may need to take low-dose aspirin for 6 to 8 weeks. Do not give your child aspirin without first talking with the child's healthcare provider.
If your child develops heart problems, the provider may send you to a pediatric cardiologist. This is a doctor with special training to treat children’s heart problems. Your child may need medicine, procedures, or surgery.
Most children with Kawasaki disease get better within a few weeks. But serious complications may occur. Those involving the heart include:
Kawasaki disease may also affect other body systems. This includes the nervous, immune, digestive, and urinary systems.
If your child has a coronary artery aneurysm, he or she will need echocardiograms, sometimes for several years after the illness. Your child may need more treatment, including blood thinners to prevent clots. It is important to keep follow-up visits with your child's healthcare provider, even if your child is feeling well.
There is a risk for early coronary artery disease after having Kawasaki disease, including early heart attacks. Your child will need to follow a heart-healthy lifestyle for life. This includes eating healthy foods, getting regular exercise, and not smoking. Your child should have regular follow-up with a cardiologist throughout his or her life.
Talk with your child's healthcare provider about what to expect for your child.
Call your child's healthcare provider if your child has the symptoms of Kawasaki disease. If your child is diagnosed with Kawasaki disease, keep all follow-up appointments. Also watch for signs or symptoms of complications, including:
Tips to help you get the most from a visit to your child’s healthcare provider:
Article Last Updated: March 31, 2020
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