Important facts about Kawasaki disease

Dealing with a Kawasaki disease diagnosis can be extremely confusing for most parents. Knowing the answers to some frequently asked questions may help you cope with your child’s diagnosis.

A child with Kawasaki disease will need to stay in the hospital for a few days. Your child will be given medicine to try to prevent damage to the coronary arteries. The medicines used are called intravenous immune globulin (IVIG) and ASA (acetylsalicylic acid or Aspirin).

After a child is treated, the fever usually goes away for good. Sometimes a child will need a second treatment with IVIG or other medicines.

IVIG is given through an intravenous (IV) needle in your child’s vein. It can reduce the inflammation (redness and swelling) in the body. In turn, this can reduce the fever and redness caused by the disease and help protect against heart problems.  IVIG contains antibodies from donated blood. It is screened for viruses and bacteria before it is used as a treatment. If you are concerned about this, talk to your doctor.

ASA is given by mouth in high doses. ASA also helps reduce inflammation in the body.

Most children go home from the hospital after a few days. Usually the only medicine your child will keep taking at home is ASA, once a day. This lower dose of ASA will protect the heart until your child has another echocardiogram.  Kawasaki disease can take its toll on a child’s health and it may take your child a few days or weeks to regain their energy. Children may continue to experience joint pain, which should resolve within a few days.

Your child should have an echocardiogram done shortly after the diagnosis is made, and again at approximately 4-8 weeks after diagnosis. Your child should continue to take the ASA during this time.  Children who develop coronary artery problems may need echocardiograms more often, and may need other heart tests.

Some children may experience joint pain, sensitivity to light or other eye concerns which are less common and usually resolved prior to discharge from the hospital. However, children with these concerns may be referred to rheumatology and ophthalmology for further assessment and management.

Long-term health effects for children who do not have any coronary artery problems are very rare. Such children are expected to lead a normal life with no related health problems. Children with important coronary artery problems may develop clots or narrowing in the arteries, and need special medications and long-term check-ups, and, rarely heart surgery or catheter procedures. These children require routine assessments with an echocardiogram, ECG and blood work and less frequent assessments with an MRI or CT or stress test. Even still, these patients usually lead a normal life and can participate in play and exercise.

After treatment with IVIG, your child should wait to have the next scheduled immunizations (vaccines). The vaccines will not hurt your child, but they may not work as well. Your child should wait at least 11 months after treatment with IVIG.  Your child can take the flu vaccine as usual.

While it is possible to have Kawasaki disease more than once, it is considered rare. Fewer than 2% of children have recurrences.

Kawasaki disease is not contagious. This means that it does not spread from child to child. While the number of cases in members of the same family is greater than the general population, it is still considered rare.

Kawasaki disease is extremely rare in older children, teens and adults. Rarely, an adult may have heart problems that may be caused by having had Kawasaki disease as a child that did not get diagnosed.

Some content adapted with permission from AboutKidsHealth.ca.