What Every Parent Should Know About Kawasaki Disease

For today’s Ask Dr.Mom, I’ll be sharing important information with you regarding Kawasaki Disease. Recently, our friend’s son was diagnosed with this febrile illness. Luckily, he was diagnosed in a timely manner and received the appropriate treatment to prevent potentially life threatening consequences.

His parents will be running a half marathon this coming June to raise money and awareness about this disease.

Though uncommon, Kawasaki Disease is an important disease process to know about since timely diagnosis and treatment are key to preventing potentially deleterious effects on the heart.

What is Kawasaki Disease?

  • Kawasaki Disease is a febrile illness of unknown etiology.
  • It is believed to be triggered by a viral infection and is most common in the winter and spring months.
  • KD is the leading cause of heart disease in children, aside from congenital heart defects.
  • Children ages 1-8 are most commonly affected, with 80% of children diagnosed with KD being under the age of 5.
  • Though  more common in children of Japanese descent, children of all racial groups can be affected.

What are the signs and symptoms of Kawasaki Disease?

  • High fever (usually 102 F or higher) that lasts 5 days or longer. Fever is universal to all children presenting with KD.
  • Redness of the eyes in absence of eye discharge.
  • Redness and inflammation of the mouth and throat. Will often see red, cracked lips and a “strawberry” looking tongue.
  • Body rash. This is a generalized, non-blistering rash usually most prominent on the trunk and groin area.
  • Swollen, red, and painful hands and feet. This is usually followed by peeling of the skin.
  • Enlarged lymph nodes in the neck. Typically only one side of the neck is affected.

*At least 4 of the 5 signs listed above are required for diagnosis. However, there are atypical cases and no two children will present the same. Always contact your child’s doctor for evaluation in presence of the above signs and symptoms.*

  • Other symptoms include extreme irritability, stomach ache, diarrhea, and/or vomiting.

Why should I worry about Kawasaki Disease?

  • KD is important to know about and treat because if left untreated, 20% of children will develop abnormalities of their coronary arteries. Aneurysms could form and can be life threatening.

Diagnosis and Treatment of Kawasaki Disease

  • There is no specific test for Kawasaki Disease.
  • Diagnosis is based on the constellation of clinical and physical findings. This is why it’s so important to contact your child’s doctor should he present with any of the symptoms listed above.
  • Treatment consists of in hospital administration of intravenous immunoglobulin (IVIG) and aspirin. If started within 10 days of disease onset, this greatly reduces the risk of permanent heart damage.

As with most things, education and awareness is key. If you’re ever concerned about your child, never hesitate to ask your child’s doctor. That is what we are here for.

Have you heard about Kawasaki Disease? Do you know a child affected by it?

9 Responses to What Every Parent Should Know About Kawasaki Disease
  1. Liz
    May 11, 2011 | 11:54 am

    Oh how scary! No, I don't know anyone who has ever had experience with this.

  2. Laura@OutnumberedMom
    May 11, 2011 | 2:42 pm

    I have never heard of this! Very informative, important info. And I love a mom who uses the word "deleterious"!


  3. Eat. Live. Laugh. and sometimes shop!
    May 11, 2011 | 3:09 pm

    Holy smokes! I've never heard of it, but it sounds horrid.

    Thanks for educating us!!

  4. Cheryl D.
    May 11, 2011 | 11:34 pm

    A child of a friend of mine was diagnosed with this! Very frightening if not caught!

  5. Lexie Loo & Dylan Too
    May 12, 2011 | 6:24 am

    We actually had to watch my daughter carefully for this last week! She had a high fever for 4 days in the 103 and 104 range, with no other symptoms. We took her to the pediatrician on the 4th day, and the strep test they did came back with just a faint positive, but her doctor was concerned about this due to the high fever and the fact that she had 3 of the 5 symptoms. Luckily, the antibiotics kicked in, the fever broke, and the strep test they sent away came back with a definite positive!

  6. Melissa (Confessions of a Dr. Mom)
    May 13, 2011 | 5:56 pm

    So sorry if you left a comment in the past couple of days and it's not here. Blogger experienced a major glitch in the last 24 hours. Lost all my comments.

    Thanks so much for reading and commenting.

  7. Lady Jennie
    May 18, 2011 | 5:37 am

    I have heard of this disease but never knew what it was. I had no idea that it wasn't a birth defect.

    (Incidentally, I was wondering if bloody noses were a symptom of anything – my son gets them from time to time for no reason).

  8. Janae
    July 22, 2011 | 9:23 am

    I would like to add that no child should ever be given aspirin for a fever unless specifically prescribed by a doctor. This is because of the risks associated with aspirin and reye's syndrome. A very harmful disease that has been linked to aspirin when given for flu-like symptoms…

  9. Eve
    December 10, 2012 | 6:51 am

    Hi Melissa,

    I am also a Dr. Mom( though I am not practicing yet due to many factors). I was sharing your moments you had with your child while sick with Scarlet Fever….my 5 YO son is in Day 4 of Scarlet Fever and the same with you what seems to be the worst is the Itchy rash. Unfortunately our 2 YO girl got it too but( without the rash) but they are both ok.
    As I was reading some of your other blogs I came across the Kawasaki one. While it is true I heared about it, of course, after reviewing the features you highlighted I couldn’t see how much these two resemble eachother: Scarlet Fever and Kawasaki. While it is believed to be triggered more by a virus, could Strep also be a possible culprit? if the child responds well to the Antibiotics for a Strep infection, does this eliminates 100% Kawasaki. When it comes to your own kids, the medical knowledge is not your best friend.
    My son had ALL the signs you presented for Kawasaki ( except red eyes and the high fever only lasted for 2 and a half day, until the antibiotic kicked in) and in addition he had vomiting and diarrhea. His fingers are slightly swollen( he said they feel like if he would hold something invisible in his hands, but it doesn’t hurt) and the rash made his skin seam unreal to the touch.
    I trust my son has indeed Scarlet Fever….but I couldn’t help not writing you back about this.
    All the best and good luck to all!