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What is Kawasaki Syndrome?

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While Jett Travolta's recent death is said to be caused by serious head trauma following a seizure, there's talk everywhere of Kawasaki Syndrome, also known as Kawasaki Disease. Jett's mom Kelly Preston has been vocal about the illness her son with husband John Travolta was diagnosed at the age of two. Now Backstreet Boy Brian Littrell reveals his six-year-old son Baylee was also recently diagnosed with KS.
john travolta
But what is it and how is it detected? We asked momlogic pediatrician Dr. Cara Natterson for answers. Here's what she told us:

Kawasaki syndrome is an uncommon illness that usually affects young children (under the age of five). It involves fever and inflammation throughout the body. The most feared complications involve inflammation of the blood vessels, especially the coronary arteries that feed the heart muscle. 

As parents, should we be worried that KS is affecting our own kids? Dr. Cara says, "In order to qualify as having Kawasaki's you have to have five days of fever. Most kids are very fussy and have dry, cracked lips and/or red eyes. Kids are pretty sick with Kawasaki's ... Parents have usually been in to see the doctor before the five day mark because the kids feel so bad. But you cannot (technically) make the diagnosis without five days of fever."

Standard treatments for KS include high doses of aspirin to reduce fever and overall swelling and an immunoglobulin to reduce arterial inflammation and prevent heart complications.

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21 comments so far | Post a comment now
Chantal January 4, 2009, 10:16 AM

My son had Kawasaki Disease in 2007.

We had been in to see several doctors at a local clinic for what we suspected was chicken pox, scarlet fever or the flu. Finally, one doctor who had just happened to read an article on Kawasaki caught the symptoms and he was treated in time.

High fever for five days is the first most important symptom, but there is also redness, swollen hands, a “strawberry” tongue, red eyes and extreme irritability.

The one thing that was stressed to us is that doctor’s do not know how or why Kawasaki happens. Our team was not sure if it is a virus or dormant in the body until activated.

Our son had an IVIG (intravenous immunoglobulin) transfer and high doses of aspirin until he was released, and then treated with aspirin and anti-inflammatories for pain in his joints. Follow up ECG were important in ensuring that his heart had not suffered any artery damage (which it didn’t).

It was stressed to us that Kawasaki needs to be caught within a certain window (I believe it was ten days) and be treated in order to have the best chance at “curing” him. There is, as we were told, always a risk for heart troubles later in life, but this is greatly reduced by the IVIG transfer and close monitoring of the heart after release.

I wanted to add my two cents on the subject.

Jill January 5, 2009, 9:23 PM

My son too had KS at 18 months he is now 18 years old. Exact same sx as described. No residual as of yet. Hx of familial heart disease. I am now worried if this will effect him sooner than later. Ya gotta keep on your toes with all of the recent events….or so I think????????????

patricia a. stuck-bursac January 5, 2009, 10:46 PM

Our son had KS at 3 years of age after moving into a modular unit. He cried and cried that his stomach hurt. We took him to the doctor 3 or 4 times without any help from the doctor. His urine was very dark and we headed to Akron’s Children Hospital for a proper diagnosis. He overcame it but our doctor took us more serious from that time on. He does not have the strength that others have. Is this true of other children that have had KS? He becomes very sick and usually needs medicine to become cured of colds and illnesses. He says that he does not feel good a lot. What are other children experiencing after years later?

rosalie mondacci January 6, 2009, 1:05 PM

since my son rick was 17 yrs old now he’s 42 people stop me and ask if anyone has told me he looks like john travolta. please accept our condolences mondacci family

Kate January 6, 2009, 4:02 PM

My son died in 2004 from a coronary thrombosis from Kawasaki disease. We had been through the hospital and two doctors who told us it was just a virus and not to worry. He dropped dead in my arms. I will forever feel guilt at having trusted the local doctors, never again. If your child is ever seriously ill get them to a major medical center, small town medicine can be lethal. The doctors who sentenced my son to death through their indifference and incompetence have yet to apologize, I guess they could care less since it wasn’t their child who died.

Anonymous January 6, 2009, 6:50 PM

about 15 years ago a good friend of mine son got very sick with every system yu have listed well the city hospital as always said he had a virus my friend got really scared for his son’s life since we don’t live that far from Duke University he took off for ,Duke with him,and it is a good thing he did,the doctors there said if he had only waited 3 more hours the child would have been dead.It was KS and that it was caused when his day care pulled up old carpet and replaced it with new more then likely because it was a dust mite that gets in the lung that causes it.I do beleive this this is one of the best hospitals in the world! and today thats a really big boy!

Patricia January 6, 2009, 6:50 PM

My feelings go out to you. I feel so bad to hear about your son. Our doctor kept sending us home. Our son just kept crying that his stomach hurt. I actually called a hospital line and a nurse told us to go back again. Finally our doctor told us to go to Akron Children Hospital. Our experience was so scary. It could have turned out worst if I had not called the nurse. It was the medicine in the blood by product that made him better with aspirins for forty days. I will keep Kate in my thoughts.

Leandra January 8, 2009, 3:36 AM

My heart goes out to Kate and the Trovolta family.My daughter Kamryn had KD at 2. She was misdiagnosed because we didn’t know she even had a fever. Apparently she had a low-grade fever along with the other “Classic Criteria.” Kamryn now has ectasia of her coronary arteries. I pushed for a diagnosis other than viral, but I was ignored.I wish she had the chance to receive IVIG. Even though the criteria have been updated..its not enough.There is too little known about this disease and the risks are too high to place a criteria on.As for the Trovolta’s…everyone has their own beliefs.~Kammy’s mom

patricia January 8, 2009, 4:41 PM

Leadnra, what is Kammy’s health like? Does she become sickly? Is she tired? Overall our son is very healthy and a full grown young man but I just wondered what other children’s health issues are that had KS. I just feel he becomes sicker once he begins a cold or virus. Maybe we are just overly worried having these experiences. I agree my heart goes out not just to Kate but the Travolta family. I also agree not to put stock in local doctors for complications. I am glad I made a phone call to a hospital line and a nurse told me to go back to the doctor because our son cried that his stomach hurt. His organs inside were very enlarged from the illness. It was felt it was the carpet and glues used in our modular unit that caused his whole body to over react causing KS. We want him to have a check-up this summer when he comes home from college. We were told that his heart and arteries were in normal range but like you said - not much is known about this illness. Our son had it 17 years ago and it still haunts us as parents.

Educated Mommy January 19, 2009, 12:38 PM

Brian Luttrell disclosed his son had Kawasaki disease, before it was even mentioned about Jett. I have worked with special individuals for many years, and if you look at Jett’s physical features, it is clear he was developmentally disabled, likely with Autism or Aspbergers. The Travolta’s killed their child with their cult like behavior. Scientologists do not accept individuals with developmental disabilities, after all, it was created by celebrities hoping to be absolved for their bad behavior! This child likely suffered his whole life because his parents were trying to make a statement, and did not treat him appropriately. Of course being celebrities and living the high life, their baby likely died alone, or in the arms of a “caregiver.” How sweet, how Hollywood.

patricia January 20, 2009, 9:06 AM

I have an article about Jett Travolta having Kawasaki Disease years ago in my child’s scrap book because our son suffered from that disease when he was 3 years of age. Our son is now 20 years of age. Actually the Travolta’s joined a group that made people aware of bad things harming children and people in the environment. All this happened years ago. I personally do not know about the Scientoloy reglion. No religion is perfect. I feel bad for the Travolta family and can not judge them as harshly. Everyone makes mistakes and wants the best for their child. They do have to suffer because of decisions that they made but I can not lay the quilt trip on any parent on how they live or have lived. I did not live the fast lane with my family and was there for my children when needed. I must admit I have no career, could only provide the basics for my children. The most important thing I gave my children was my time. I put my children first. My children never saw the world. I guess my priorities were different. I still can not lay any quilt trip on any family that had problems like the Travolta family. They only have to answer to their God not me.

mary February 11, 2009, 3:07 PM

As a parent, it pays to do a little research on ur own regarding your child’s sympmtoms. If you believe everything ur doctors tell you, ur child might be dead by now. My son who’s 17 mos old had a sudden onset of high fever (102.8) with no other symptoms on feb 2, 2009, so I just gave him some tylenol thinking it is just a viral infection. The next day, I was bothered by his extreme irritability and as I was comforting him, i felt a lump on his left neck…large enough to cause me alarm. Took him to the dr the next morning and dr said he had a left ear infection but also ordered CT scan to rule out possible mastoiditis(infection of the portion of the temporal bone of the skull that is behind the ear). CT scan came out negative for mastoiditis but found he had sinus infection as well…so dr prescribed antibiotics (augmentin) for 10 days. 48 hours had passed, my son did not respond to the antibiotics and tylenol…still running a 103-104.8 fever despite treatment. Other symptoms start showing up in the next 2 days ( I started to research online day and night during this time as his symptoms gradually increase)…his hands and feet started to swell and turn red, develops a rash on the body with concentration on the genital area, both eyes turned red w/o discharge, lips and inside of mouth are red with some cracking, tongue looked like a strawberry. I suspected it was KD but didnt wanna think about it. On the 7th day of fever, son woke up with 105.1 fever and was rushed to the nearby community hospital ER. They told me they dont know whats going on with my son and needs to transfer us to a children’s hosp….so we did transfer by ambulance. That same day, I told the pediatric specialist all the exact details. She ordered additional lab tests and assessed my son…stood in front of me and my husband and said it was kawasaki disease. I looked at my husband and said…”I told u so”. He was given IV immune globulin and high doses of aspirin and echocardigram the next day. echo was normal but still needs to be monitored. We only spent 2 days at the hosp and my son was well. We are still on high dose aspirin for 1 week and low dose for 6 more weeks. echo and some more lab works are scheduled to be repeated in 2weeks, 6 weeks…etc. Im glad my timing was right, and early treatment was given, otherwise we’re in a lot of serious trouble. KD is treatable if caught early (within 10 days from onset of fever)…and there’s little risk of coronary artery complication. Your child might not have all the symptoms of KD like my son had, but some KD are atypical or incomplete KD which means not showing all of the symptoms at all. If the dr had said it was something else, I would push her to look at the possibility of KD…so I’m not missing out on anything. Do ur research….it could save lives.

patricia February 13, 2009, 11:09 PM

Mary, how is your son doing now? Is he back to normal? Patricia

Angel Mooi March 11, 2009, 10:27 PM

I’m malaysian. My daughter now is 3.8 years old. Last time when she 2 years old,she had Kawasaki disease.She in hospital around 1 week.
Just last week,4thMarch09(wed) she start fever,we bring her go to clinic 3 times already.Untill 6th Mar (Fri)we fetch her go to hospital KL. But after many doctor checking,they said is just normal high fever. but she already 40.5’C .she keep high fever .And then she don’t want eat any thing.Drink also don’t want.Just sleep only.she very fussy and have dry, cracked lips and red eyes.inflammation throughout her body.
Untill 10thMar09, docter said is KS again. So they faster change the treatments. Untill yesterday 11th Mar,My daughter back to normal.No fever,can eat something. But now she still in the hospital. We still waiting doctor finally checking.

patricia March 13, 2009, 6:39 AM

I never heard of a child have KS twice. Good luck with your daughter.

Jason May 7, 2009, 9:26 PM

My Heart goes out to all those precious kids that have got or had this horrible disease. May god bless you all…

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