Kawasaki disease is usually treated in hospital as it can cause serious complications. Treatment should begin as soon as possible.
It may take longer for your child to recover if Kawasaki disease isn't treated promptly. Their risk of developing complications will also be increased.
The two main treatments for Kawasaki disease are:
- intravenous immunoglobulin
Your child may be prescribed aspirin if they have Kawasaki disease. This is one of the few occasions where aspirin may be recommended for a child under 16 years old.
Never give your child aspirin unless it's prescribed by a healthcare professional as it can cause side effects, including Reye's syndrome.
You'll usually be warned not to give your child aspirin to treat a high temperature caused by another illness, such as chickenpox. Aspirin treatment for Kawasaki disease can be restarted when the fever settles.
Aspirin is a non-steroidal anti-inflammatory drug (NSAID). It's used to treat Kawasaki disease because:
- it can ease pain and discomfort
- it can help reduce a high temperature (fever)
- at high doses, aspirin is an anti-inflammatory – it reduces swelling
- at low doses, aspirin is an antiplatelet – it prevents blood clots forming
The dose of aspirin your child is prescribed and how long they need to take it for depends on their symptoms. They'll probably be given high-dose aspirin until their fever subsides.
They may then be prescribed low-dose aspirin until six to eight weeks after the start of their symptoms. This is to reduce blood clots if there are problems developing in the blood vessels that supply blood to the heart.
Research carried out into using aspirin to treat Kawasaki disease didn't find any evidence either for or against its use. However, it's used because it helps prevent heart complications developing by working both as an anti-inflammatory and an antiplatelet.
Intravenous immunoglobulin is also called IVIG. Immunoglobulin is a solution of antibodies taken from healthy donors. Intravenous means it's injected directly into a vein.
Antibodies are proteins the immune system produces to fight disease-carrying organisms.
Research has shown IVIG can reduce fever and the risk of heart problems. The immunoglobulin used to treat Kawasaki disease is called gamma globulin.
After your child is given IVIG, their symptoms should improve within 36 hours. If their fever doesn't improve after 36 hours, they may be given a second dose of IVIG.
Corticosteroids are a type of medication that contains hormones, which are powerful chemicals that have a wide range of effects on the body.
They may be recommended if a second dose of IVIG isn't effective. If your child is found to have a high risk of heart problems, they may be treated with corticosteroids as part of the first treatment.
Research is currently looking at the benefits of using corticosteroids to treat Kawasaki disease. The results have been inconsistent, but one review found they can reduce the need to be treated again with IVIG but don't reduce the risk of heart problems.
Read more about corticosteroids.
When your child is discharged from hospital, you should be given advice about how to care for them at home. This may include making sure they're as comfortable as possible and ensuring they drink plenty of fluids.
Make sure your child continues taking any medication that has been prescribed for them and look out for any side effects.
Your child will be given a follow-up appointment and their heart will continue to be monitored. Once an ultrasound scan of the heart(echocardiogram) has confirmed that your child doesn't have any heart abnormalities, they can usually stop taking aspirin.
Some symptoms, such as peeling skin, may not occur until three to four weeks after Kawasaki disease starts, and a full recovery could take around six weeks.
The Kawasaki Support Group UK can provide you with additional information and advice about your child's condition.