Children’s illnesses: Kawasaki disease and meningococcal infection

24 May 2014

Kawasaki disease

This is a rare but dangerous disease that occurs mostly in children aged one to eight.

The child’s temperature rises quickly and they feel sick. After suffering from a fever for two days the child has bloodshot eyes and their mouth, lips, tongue and throat are sore. The glands in the neck are often swollen.

A rash develops (often in the nappy area) and may take various forms. Red, swollen hands and feet are characteristic.

The child is seriously ill and may have various other symptoms – diarrhoea and vomiting, stomach ache, headache and a stiff neck.

Without treatment the temperature remains high for five to 10 days then drops.

The cause is still unknown but it’s accepted the disease causes an inflammation of the capillaries that can spread to the bigger blood vessels, especially in the heart.

Fortunately there’s specific treatment to prevent complications and speed up recovery. Admission to hospital is essential, which is why parents should be aware of this disease and call a doctor if a child suffers a fever with these symptoms.

The main complication is an inflammation of the smaller blood vessels that can spread to the coronary artery. Symptoms of heart disease can occur months or years later.

If your child is sick and their hands and feet become red and swollen, consult your doctor immediately.

Meningococcal infection

This dangerous infection can strike at any age. It may be present only in the blood circulatory system or it may quickly lead to meningitis.

If the latter occurs the symptoms are fever, headache, vomiting, a stiff neck, often convulsions and confusion. If it’s present only in the blood circulatory system the picture is less clear – fever, vomiting, fast respiration and pulse, and muscle pains.

A rash starts with a few scattered red spots anywhere on the body that quickly become big and dark purple, resembling bruises.

It’s only with this rash that the red marks on the skin don’t become white when you press on them. In severe cases shock sets in quickly – cold arms and legs, a weak pulse and scattered bruises. Haemorrhage of the internal organs can occur. The child could die within three to four hours.

The cause is a bacterium known as Neisseria, which is present in the throat. Only in certain cases does it cause an infection.

Because of problems with their immune systems certain families have a lowered resistance to this bacterium. Hospitalisation is essential in all cases.

If your child is feverish, with a headache and stiff neck, and then develops a rash that first resembles red pin pricks and later looks like bruises, rush to a doctor.

Important

Read the first article in our series on what to do if your child is feverish and when you should definitely consult a doctor.

Other childhood diseases:

  • Click here for more about measles and baby measles.
  • Click here for more about German measles and slapped cheek disease.
  • Click here for more about scarlet fever and glandular fever.
  • Click here for more about shingles and chicken pox.
  • Click here for more about fever blisters and hand, foot and mouth disease.

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