Initially discovered by Japanese pediatrician, Tomisaku Kawasaki, Kawasaki disease (also known as KD, mucocutaneous lymph node syndrome or Kawasaki syndrome), is characterized by swelling of the blood vessels throughout the body. Typically affecting infants and children under five years old who are of Korean or Japanese decent, Kawasaki disease can strike children of other ethnicities as well. If it is detected and treated in time, children do not normally have any long-term effects from the illness. However, left untreated, Kawasaki disease can lead to serious heart complications. In fact, it is among the foremost causes of heart disease in children.
It is uncertain what causes the disease, but researchers believe it may be hereditary or contagious. Most children recover from it without any lasting effects. In less than 1% of cases, KD is fatal.
The disease is presented in different stages and a definitive test for its presence does not yet exist. Doctors arrive at a diagnosis for Kawasaki disease by ruling out other childhood illnesses and if several of the following first stage symptoms are present:
- High fever
- Swelling on the soles of the feet and palms of the hands with both sometimes being discolored
- Red eyes
- Rash on chest, stomach, and genital areas
- Swelling in the lymph nodes around the neck
- White coating as well as swelling on the tongue (sometimes red bumps will be present)
- Sore throat
- Severely chapped lips
- Extreme peeling of hands and feet
This first phase can last between five days and two weeks.
In the second phase of Kawasaki disease, symptoms will appear to worsen and the child may even experience peeling on the hands and the feet along with diarrhea and vomiting. Children may also complain of joint pain and severe abdominal cramps. It is important for medical care to be sought for a child believed to be in the second phase of Kawasaki disease immediately.
Doctors will normally prescribe appropriate medications to combat the worsening of Kawasaki disease as well as to avoid damage that can cause future problems, such as heart complications, in young children. Intravenous gammagobulin treatments in children hospitalized due to Kawasaki syndrome are also common. High doses of aspirin are usually prescribed to sooth joint pains, prevent blood clots and to treat a persistent, high-grade fever.
In order to protect children from KD, it is best to keep them away from other children who present any of the above detailed symptoms since it is possibly contagious. Also, keeping a child’s immune system strong by adhering to a balanced, healthy diet, as well as making sure that the child has between eight and ten hours of sleep each night, helps lessen their chances of contracting Kawasaki disease as well as a host of other illnesses. Avoiding processed foods, fast food, and processed sugars is strongly encouraged since each of these may actually work to suppress a child’s immune system and increase a child’s susceptibility to viruses and a variety of diseases in general. Instead, children should eat a vitamin and mineral rich fruits and vegetables each day at mealtime and snack time.
Since Kawasaki disease may also be hereditary, parents of young children, or adults who plan to one day have children, are advised to opt for a holistic lifestyle as well. If an adult has had Kawasaki disease as a child, it is especially important for that person to make a special effort in maintaining a holistic health lifestyle and modeling a healthy lifestyle for their children.
If Kawasaki disease is suspected in a child, it’s important that a doctor make a proper diagnosis as soon as possible to avoid long-term complications. In this process, the doctor may have the child undergo a series of tests for other illnesses in order to rule them out before arriving at a proper diagnosis for Kawasaki disease. During this time, a child with Kawasaki disease is most likely to be irritable due to the discomfort and pain associated with the illness. It is important to try to keep the child as comfortable as possible by holding the child and speaking in a soothing tone, as well as by taking necessary steps to keep the child’s fever down.
Receiving a diagnosis for Kawasaki disease can be frightening, but it’s important for parents to remember that most children diagnosed with the illness experience a full recovery with no lasting effects.
Choosing a holistic health approach to a child’s care early in that child’s life can be instrumental in avoiding things like Kawasaki disease. Therefore, it’s important to learn and utilize strategies for holistic, healthy living each day.