What is Kawasaki disease?

Kawasaki disease (KD), also called mucocutaneous lymph node syndrome, causes inflammation and swelling in arteries, capillaries, and veins. It primarily affects children. It infects lymph nodes and induces symptoms in your mouth, nose, and throat. The inflammation affects coronary arteries that supply blood to our heart muscle.

Common symptoms of Kawasaki syndrome are high fever and peeling skin. The great news is Kawasaki disease is curable and children with Kawasaki disease recover without any severe health problems.

What are the three stages of Kawasaki disease?

Kawasaki disease can be a scary experience, but early diagnosis and treatment are key to a full recovery. This illness tends to progress in three stages, each with its own set of symptoms. Let’s break it down:

Stage 1: Acute Phase (The Rough Ride)

This is when things get tough. The acute phase usually lasts between 10 and 14 days, but it can vary. Here’s what to watch out for:

  • Fever Power: The principal offender is a high fever of at least 101° F or 38.3° C that continues for five days, despite taking drugs.
  • Cranky Crew: Your child might feel under the weather, making them restless and irritable.
  • Eye Spy: Red, bloodshot eyes without any discharge (pink eye) are a common symptom.
  • Strawberry Tongue & Cracked Lips: The tongue appears red and swollen and the lips become dry, chapped, and red.
  • Hand and Foot Fiesta: The palms of the hands and soles of the feet become red, swollen, and even painful.
  • The Peeling Party: After a week the skin on the fingertips and toes might start peeling.
  • Rash Rush: A red, bumpy rash often appears on the torso that can spread to other parts of the body.
  • Swollen Gland Gang: One or more lymph nodes in the neck might become swollen (bigger than half an inch) and tender.
  • Belly Blues: Most of the Children might experience upset stomach, vomiting, or diarrhea.

Stage 2: Subacute Phase (The Calming Down)

This stage usually starts around the third week after the fever begins. Things start to improve, but some symptoms might linger:

  • Fading Fever: The fever finally breaks out, and your child feels better.
  • Rash Retreat: The rash and swollen lymph nodes gradually go away.
  • Peeling Persistence: The peeling skin on the hands and feet might continue for a few weeks.
  • Joint Jitters: Some children might experience joint pain or stiffness, especially in the hands and feet.

Stage 3: Convalescent Phase (The Road to Recovery)

This stage can last for several weeks or even months. It’s all about getting back to normal, but some caution is still needed:

  • Back to Normal (Mostly): Your child regains their energy and feels much better.
  • Heart Check: Although almost all kids get well, this is the time when heart problems in particular can be found. Their heart health must be monitored through regular checkups.
  • Taking it Easy: Since the body is still recovering, avoiding strenuous activity might be recommended.

Causes and Risk Factors for Kawasaki Disease

Kawasaki disease can be a confusing illness because the exact cause remains a mystery. Researchers haven’t cracked the code yet, but they’ve identified some factors that might play a role. Let’s delve into the world of causes and risk factors:

Causes for Kawasaki Disease : 

Unfortunately, there’s no single, definitive answer to what causes Kawasaki disease. It’s likely a combination of things, and scientists are still putting the puzzle pieces together. Here are the leading theories:

  • The Infection Intrigue: According to some people, a trigger associated with either bacteria or viruses is probably a factor while discussing this. This is based on the theory that when there is a general infection, the body’s defense mechanism becomes hyperactive resulting in swelling of blood vessels.
  • The Genetic Gamble: Whether or not Kawasaki disease, a child’s risk of suffering from it could be influenced by genetic factors. A trigger, on exposure, could cause one to fall ill more easily if specific genes were found.

Risk Factors 

While the cause remains elusive, some factors seem to increase the risk of Kawasaki disease:

  • Age: Kawasaki disease primarily affects children under 5 years old, with the peak occurring between 1 and 2 years of age.
  • Sex: Boys are slightly more likely to develop Kawasaki disease compared to girls.
  • Ethnicity: Children of Asian or Pacific Islander descent have a higher risk compared to other ethnicities. However, Kawasaki disease can affect any child.
  • Seasonal Shifts: Cases tend to be more common during winter and spring months in some regions.

It’s important to remember that having these risk factors doesn’t guarantee a child will get Kawasaki disease. Conversely, a child without these factors can still develop it.

Symptoms of Kawasaki Disease

Kawasaki disease occurs in stages, and symptoms appear in phases during spring and late winter.

Early Stage

These symptoms and signs continue for two weeks. They involve

  • Severe fever ( higher than 102.2 F) that lasts more than five days
  • Rashes on the groin and torso
  • Swollen lymph nodes
  • Reddish and swollen lips
  • Bloodshot eyes without crusting
  • Tongue with shiny and bright red spots
  • Hands and feet with inflammation
  • Soles of the feet and red palms
  • During this time heart problems may occur.
  • Irritability

Final Stage

In the second stage, children may develop-

  • Skin peeling on the feet and hands, particularly the tips of toes and fingers.
  • Diarrhea
  • Abdominal pain
  • Joint pain
  • Vomiting
  • Enlarged gallbladder
  • Interim hearing loss

What are the complications of Kawasaki disease?

The disease is not usually fatal but can cause complications such as inflammation of coronary arteries, aneurysms, clotting risks, chest pains, heart muscle damage, joint pain, skin flaking, cholecystitis, and renal issues. Early diagnosis and treatment can prevent these complications and help most children regain complete health.

Kawasaki Disease Treatment

To avoid the complications of Kawasaki disease, the doctor will start the treatment as soon as possible because your child may suffer from fever. The main object of primary treatment is to reduce or lower inflammation, cure fever, and also prevent heart damage.

Kawasaki treatment involves an infusion of antibodies called intravenous immunoglobulin for less than 10 days of the fever. They provide a daily dosage of aspirin for four days. Children also need to take a lower dose of aspirin for 6-8 weeks after being cured of fever to prevent the formation of blood clots.

Some children require treatment for a longer time to prevent a heart problem or blocked artery. The treatment requires a longer time that involves antiplatelet aspirin doses until echocardiograph becomes normal.

We hope you have discovered the main symptoms of Kawasaki syndrome to prevent your children from the risks of heart disease.

What to expect from your doctor

If your child experiences these symptoms and signs and they last for more than five days, then you should take your child to the doctor. Most children with this syndrome recover completely when they are treated at an early stage. Children who develop heart problems because of Kawasaki disease require more testing and must visit a cardiologist.

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I'm Vannessa, a certified masters in curating unique diet plans specializing in nutrition, weight management, stress management etc. I was formerly a member of Healthline's dedicated research team and was recognized as one of their top writers for a decade.I am also actively participating in several health forums, including MomMD and MedHelp.I'm passionate about helping people achieve optimal health through strength training, mindfulness techniques. My articles and guides offer a blend of research and practical strategies to support your specific needs. Let's work together to unlock your full potential for a healthier life.I postgraduated my degree in Advanced Food Safety from Queen's University Belfast. (https://www.qub.ac.uk/)