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Kawasaki disease - Treating Kawasaki disease

NHS Choices Medical Reference

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Kawasaki disease is usually treated in hospital because it can cause serious complications. T

reatment should begin as soon as possible.

If Kawasaki disease is not treated promptly, it may take longer for your child to recover. Their risk of developing complications will also be increased.

Aspirin and intravenous immunoglobulin are the two main treatment methods used to treat Kawasaki disease (see below).

Aspirin

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.

Unless it is prescribed by a healthcare professional treating your child, never give your child aspirin.

Aspirin is a non-steroidal anti-inflammatory drug (NSAID). It is 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 anti-platelet (it prevents blood clots from forming).

The dose of aspirin that your child is prescribed and how long they need to take it for will depend on their symptoms. They will probably be given high-dose aspirin until their fever subsides.

They may then be prescribed a low dose until six-to-eight weeks after the start of their symptoms. This is to prevent coronary artery abnormalities (problems developing in the blood vessels that supply blood to the heart).

Research that was carried out into using aspirin to treat Kawasaki disease did not find any evidence either for or against its use. However, it is used because it helps prevent heart complications developing by working both as an anti-inflammatory and an anti-platelet. 

Intravenous immunoglobulin

Intravenous immunoglobulin is also called IVIG. Immunoglobulin is a solution of antibodies that is obtained from healthy donors. Intravenous means it is injected directly into a vein.

Antibodies are proteins that the immune system produces to fight disease-carrying organisms.

Research has shown that IVIG can reduce fever and the risk of heart problems. The immunoglobulin that is 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 does not improve after 36 hours, they may be given a second dose of IVIG.

Corticosteroids

Corticosteroids are a type of medication that contain hormones (powerful chemicals that have a wide range of effects on the body). They may be recommended if a second dose of IVIG is ineffective.

Research is currently underway to look at the benefits of using corticosteroids to treat Kawasaki disease. One review of research into corticosteroids found that they can reduce the need to be treated again with IVIG but do not reduce the risk of heart problems.

Read more about corticosteroids

After treatment

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 are 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 echocardiogram (an ultrasound scan of the heart) has confirmed that your child does not 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.

Medical Review: March 06, 2012
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