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K is for Kawasaki Disease

Yup, it’s time to cover another disease you have never heard of. If you are new here, I will let you in on a little secret, as a nurse I love to use my blog to bring awareness to things that many people have never heard of before. As a pediatric, labor and delivery, and women’s health nurse, I like to focus on things that affect those who I care for most often. Kawasaki disease is one of those things I want to bring awareness to because, while it is a rare disease, it can have devastating consequences if not treated.

K is for Kawasaki Disease

What is Kawasaki Disease?

Kawasaki disease causes inflammation, or swelling, in the walls of arteries throughout the body. Some of these arteries are the coronary arteries which supply blood to the heart. I also affect lymph nodes, skin, and mucous membranes in the mouth and throat. While the symptoms are scary, Kawasaki disease treatable and most kids can recover with no serious complications if caught early.

Symptoms

The symptoms of Kawasaki disease can occur in phases.

In the first phase, the symptoms include:

  • A fever, usually over 102.2 degrees F and usually lasts more than 5 days
  • Very red eyes without discharge
  • Rash on the trunk of the body (abdomen, chest, and back) and the groin area
  • Red, dry, cracked lips
  • Very red and swollen tongue, often referred to as a strawberry tongue
  • Swollen and red skin on the palms of the hands and soles of the feet
  • Swollen lymph nodes, especially in the neck, but they may appear elsewhere
  • Irritability

In the second stage the symptoms progress to:

  • Peeling of the skin on the hands and feet, often times in large chunks
  • Vomiting
  • Diarrhea
  • Abdominal pain
  • Joint pain

During the third phase symptoms slowly disappear unless complications develop. It can take up to eight weeks before your child seems normal again.

You need to see the doctor if your child has a fever for more than four days, or if your child has a fever along with redness in both eyes, red, swollen tongue, redness on the palms of the hands or soles of the feet, peeling skin, or swollen lymph nodes.

It is important to treat Kawasaki disease within 10 days of the onset of symptoms to reduce the risk of long term damage.

Causes

No one knows the exact cause of Kawasaki disease, Many believe there is a link to certain bacterial and viral infections and that genetics can increase a child’s susceptibility to the disease.

Kawasaki disease is not known to be contagious.

There are certain risk factors though. These include:

  • Age. Children under the age of 5 are most at risk for developing Kawasaki disease.
  • Gender. Boys are more likely to develop Kawasaki disease than girls.
  • Ethnicity. Children of Asian descent are more at risk.

Complications

With proper treatment, complications are rare. Kawasaki disease is the leading cause of acquired heart disease in children. The potential complications include inflammation of the blood vessels, inflammation of the heart muscle, heart valve problems, and an abnormal heart rhythm.

For a small percentage of children who develop complications Kawasaki disease is fatal.

Treatment includes an IV infusion of an immune protein and high doses of aspirin initially. Once your child goes home, they may remain on a low dose of aspirin for a while. Your child will also be monitored for any heart complications because they may not show up until later.

While the symptoms of Kawasaki disease can be scary for everyone, the good news is that with treatment many children do not have any lasting effects.

Did you know about Kawasaki disease before today?

If you want to know what else I have talked about for the A to Z Challenge, check out my “A” post.

Thanks for reading, Cassie

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