Kawasaki Disease

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Kawasaki Disease is an illness that involves the skin, mouth, and lymph nodes, and most often affects kids under age 5. The cause is unknown, but if the symptoms are recognized early, kids with this disease can fully recover within a few days. Untreated, it can lead to serious complications that can affect the heart.

It occurs in 19 out of every 100,000 kids in the United States. It is most common among children of Japanese and Korean descent, but can affect all ethnic groups.

The symptoms of Kawasaki disease appear in phases.

. . . First phase
The first phase begins with a fever, which often is higher than 104 F, spikes and remits, and lasts one to two weeks. Your doctor may suspect Kawasaki disease if the fever lasts for five or more days, and your child has developed four or more of these signs and symptoms:

  • Extremely red eyes without thick discharge
  • A rash on the main part of the body and in the genital area
  • Red, dry, cracked lips and an extremely red, swollen tongue
  • Swollen, red skin on the palms of the hands and the soles of the feet
  • Sore throat
  • Swollen lymph nodes in the neck and perhaps elsewhere

  • . . . Second phase
    In the second phase of the disease, your child may develop: During the second phase, which usually begins within 2 weeks of when the fever started, the skin on the hands and feet may begin to peel in large pieces. The child also may experience joint pain, diarrhea, vomiting, or abdominal pain. If your child shows any of these symptoms, call your doctor.

  • Peeling of the skin on the hands and feet, especially the tips of the fingers and toes, often in large sheets
  • Joint pain
  • Diarrhea
  • Vomiting
  • Abdominal pain

  • Understandably, children with these symptoms are extremely uncomfortable and irritable. Any parent whose child has persistent fever and any of these symptoms should take him or her to the doctor immediately.

    . . . Third phase
    In the third phase of the disease, signs and symptoms slowly go away unless complications develop.


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    No one knows what causes this disease. A number of theories link the disease to bacteria, viruses, or environmental chemicals or pollutants, but none has been proved. It doesn't appear to be hereditary.

    Treatment should begin as soon as possible, ideally within 10 days of when the fever begins. Usually, a child is treated with intravenous doses of gamma globulin, an ingredient of blood that helps the body fight infection. The child also might be given a high dose of aspirin to reduce the risk of heart problems.

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