What Is Kawasaki Disease?
KD: A Disease That We Rarely Talk About
It is a disease that has affected more than 4,200 children of the Asian ancestry in the United States. It is reported that 80% to 90% of children aged 6 months to 5 years old are affected by this disease. While the cause of the disease is still unknown, there is possibility that it could be reaction by the body’s immune system.
Kawasaki Disease (KD), which is named after Dr Tomisaku Kawasaki who developed a set of diagnostic criteria for the disease, was first described in Japan in 1967. It is a disease that causes inflammation in arteries, veins and capillaries. The inflammation occurs in the smallest arteries and veins and eventually spread to the larger arteries, including the arteries to the heart. Aneurysms, balloon-like swellings in the wall of an artery, may develop that leads to thrombosis of these vessels. Thrombosis is a condition of blood clot that can block or obstruct blood blow in the affected area, as well as cause severe complications if the clot moves to the crucial part of circulatory system, such as the brain and lungs. Approximately 15% to 20% of children with untreated Kawasaki disease suffer damage to the coronary arteries, making KD a leading cause of acquired heart disease in children. About 2% of the cases are fatal.
The Cause Of Kawasaki Disease
Although the cause of the disease is not clearly understood, doctors and medical researchers think that it may be an autoimmune disease caused by abnormal reaction of children’s immune reaction. The body’s immune system mistakenly attacks its own tissues and scientists suspect that infection may play a role in triggering the autoimmune response.
The Symptoms Of Kawasaki Disease
There is no test that can diagnose KD. However, there are symptoms that we should look out for;
Fever of 38 °C or more than may last for 5 days or more.
Bright red, chapped or cracked lips
Cough and runny nose
Diarrhea, vomiting and abdominal pain
Joint pain and swelling, often on both sides of the body
Peeling skin in the genital area, hands and feet (mostly around the nails, palms and soles)
Red mucous membranes in the mouth
Red palms of the hands and the soles of the feet
Skin rashes (not blisters) on the middle of the body
Strawberry tongue, white coating on the tongue, or visible red bumps on the back of the tongue
Swollen hands and feet
Swollen lymph nodes in the neck (often only one lymph node is swollen)
Very bloodshot or red eyes (without pus or drainage)
The Treatments for Kawasaki Disease
KD can be treated with intravenous immunoglobulin (IVIG), a solution of antibodies taken from healthy donors. It is injected directly into the veins. Antibodies are proteins that the immune system produces to fight disease-carrying organisms. Research has indicated that IVIG can reduce fever and the risk of heart problems. It is best to be given within 10 days of the start of the disease. It can reduce the chance of heart damage to 1 in 50. Without the treatment, the chance of heart damage is 1 in 5.
Aspirin is one of the prescriptions given to children who have KD. It is a non-steroidal anti-inflammatory drug (NSAID). It's used to treat Kawasaki disease because:
it can ease pain and discomfort.
it helps to reduce high temperature.
it reduces swelling.
it prevents blood clots forming.
However, it is important for parents to consult with a doctor before giving aspirin to children. The recommended dosage and how long they need to take it depend on their symptoms. Some patients will be given high-dose of aspirin to help their fever to subside. They may also be prescribed low-dose of aspirin at the beginning of their symptoms. This is to reduce blood clots. Aspirin is mainly prescribed to help prevent heart complications. It works as an anti-inflammatory and an antiplatelet.
It is important that parents do follow-up appointment with their doctor to monitor the patient’s heart. An ultrasound scan of the heart will be conducted to confirm that there is no abnormalities in the patient’s heart. Once that has been confirmed, parents can stop the medication.
It is important for parents to recognize the symptoms and consult with a doctor if they notice some of the signs of KD. Knowing and understanding about KD will be helpful.
Leong Kim Weng is a writer who writes about parenthood's articles. He uses this platform to reach out to the young parents. Writing for www.parentsdojo.com has given him the opportunity to learn and share interesting perspectives with others.