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Kawasaki Disease in Children: Care Instructions


Kawasaki disease is a rare illness that usually affects children younger than 5 years. It causes fever; red eyes; skin rash; red, swollen tongue; and dry, cracked lips. Sometimes skin peels off the hands and feet in big pieces. The child can have nausea, vomiting, diarrhea, and joint and belly pain.

Doctors do not know what causes Kawasaki disease. It is not passed from one person to another.

Kawasaki disease is usually treated with medicine given through a needle into a vein. Your child may need to stay in the hospital for a couple of days. Your child may also take aspirin for a few weeks to reduce inflammation and prevent blood clots. This is one of the very few times a doctor would consider giving aspirin to your child.

Early treatment can shorten the illness and help prevent blood vessel and heart damage. Most children recover fully and can return to their normal life in a couple of months. But Kawasaki disease that is not treated can cause serious heart damage and death.

Follow-up care is a key part of your child's treatment and safety. Be sure to make and go to all appointments, and call your doctor or nurse advice line (811 in most provinces and territories) if your child is having problems. It's also a good idea to know your child's test results and keep a list of the medicines your child takes.

How can you care for your child at home?

  • Have your child take medicines exactly as prescribed. Call your doctor or nurse advice line if you think your child is having a problem with his or her medicine.
  • Have your child rest when he or she is tired.
  • If aspirin causes an upset stomach, give it with crackers, bread, or another bland food.
  • Keep your child from rough play, especially if he or she is taking aspirin. The aspirin can cause the skin to bruise easily.
  • Keep your child away from anyone who has influenza or chickenpox. This increases the risk of Reye syndrome.
  • Your child's skin may be dry for a month or so. Use an unscented skin lotion to help keep it moist.
  • Call your doctor or nurse advice line if your child has a fever.
  • Go to all doctor visits so that the doctor can check your child for problems. This is important to prevent heart problems.

When should you call for help?

Call 911 anytime you think your child may need emergency care. For example, call if:

  • Your child has chest pain or problems breathing.
  • Your child passes out (loses consciousness).

Call your doctor or nurse advice line now or seek immediate medical care if:

  • Your child is exposed to a person with chickenpox, shingles, or influenza (flu). Call your doctor or nurse advice line right away. Your child is at greater risk of Reye syndrome when exposed to these conditions, so your child's doctor may need to change the medicines your child takes.
  • Your child has a fever.
  • Your child has severe belly pain or blood in the stool. This can be a sign of bleeding inside the body.
  • Your child has ringing in the ears, a headache, dizziness, or confusion. These may be caused by aspirin toxicity.

Watch closely for changes in your child's health, and be sure to contact your doctor or nurse advice line if:

  • Your child does not get better as expected.

Where can you learn more?

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Care instructions adapted under license by your healthcare professional. If you have questions about a medical condition or this instruction, always ask your healthcare professional. Healthwise, Incorporated disclaims any warranty or liability for your use of this information.