National Kawasaki Disease Awareness Day was yesterday and this topic is something that has recently affected my family.
A few short weeks ago, a family member of mine underwent the uncertainty of a sick child in the hospital with an unknown diagnosis. It took several days, 2 hospitals, and countless specialists to finally land on the diagnosis of Kawasaki Disease. How could it take so long and so much effort to diagnosis this? It’s because there aren’t any diagnostic tests available, just an array of clinical symptoms. Fortunately, she was diagnosed and received the correct treatment. She is now doing well and back at home with her family.
Most people have never heard of this condition, yet it affects ~4000 children in the US every year. At this time, the cause is unknown. While the majority of patients are under the age of 5, rarely, older children and young adults can also be affected. Kawasaki Disease is inflammation of the medium-sized arteries, known as vasculitis. If left untreated, the inflammation subsides in about 12 days. But without treatment, these children are at a high risk of cardiac complications. IT IS NOT CONTAGIOUS!
While there are several symptoms, not everyone experiences all of them and they can occur in any order.
- Fever: The most common symptom in Kawasaki Disease. The fever is usually non-responsive to antipyretics, like Tylenol. Always consider Kawasaki disease in any child with unexplained fever for 5 or more days
- Conjunctivitis: This is a redness of both whites of the eyes. However, unlike an eye infection, there is no puss or secretions.
- Cracked, red lips
- Strawberry tongue
- Rash: This develops after a few days of illness, usually on the trunk and/or extremities
- Red palms and soles of feet: Usually the latest symptom to develop.
Fortunately, there is a treatment, IVIG. If given within the first 10 days, it reduces the rates of coronary artery aneurysms.
The biggest complication is coronary artery aneurysms. This is a bulging out of the arteries that feed the heart. They usually occur in the acute phase of the disease, but can persist up to 1 to 2 months after.
Timely diagnosis is very key to the success of treatment and the decreased likelihood of complications. This is a difficult diagnosis to make and requires timely and prompt consideration of this possibility, early in the course. Parents should be aware of the signs to look for in order to quickly seek medical care. To learn more, go to http://www.kdfoundation.org.