Is it More than Just a Fever and a Rash?

kangaroo with thermometerGuest Blogger: Michael Fahey, MD, Chief, Pediatric Cardiology, UMass Memorial Children’s Medical Center

Has your child had a fever that has lasted more than five days? As parents, it’s easy for us to jump from fever to flu to pneumonia and beyond.

What happens when your doctor tells you your child has Kawasaki disease? Do you panic? Maybe not.

What Is Kawasaki Disease?

Kawasaki disease is a type of inflammation of the blood vessels commonly seen in children and, if left untreated, can lead to heart disease. About 80 to 90 percent of cases affect children under the age of 5, and the incidence of the disease in the United States is about two in 10,000. While rare, it’s important to know the warning signs so you can seek treatment early, before it worsens.

What Are the Symptoms?

Kawasaki disease is characterized by a fever that lasts at least five days in conjunction with some or all of the following:

  • Redness and/or swelling of the hands and feet
  • Redness/inflammation of the whites of the eyes
  • Rashes
  • Cracking or redness of the lips
  • Redness of the tongue (strawberry tongue)
  • Enlarged lymph nodes of the neck

The symptoms of the disease, while uncomfortable, are not themselves dangerous. If Kawasaki disease is suspected, an ultrasound of the heart or blood tests may be done to confirm the diagnosis and determine any risks of complications.

What Should I Do?

Keep in mind that Kawasaki disease is treatable. Intravenous immunoglobulin, an infusion of antibodies, is given to reduce inflammation, along with aspirin to lower fever and help with pain. Most treated children recover without any long-term effects and require only follow-ups with a pediatric cardiologist to monitor coronary arteries for the first few months following treatment.

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