A MOTHER who lost her baby son to a little known inflammatory disease when he was only eight months old is raising awareness of the illness.

Kathryn Rowlands is asking businesses and councils to light up prominent buildings in the town and elsewhere to highlight the symptoms and dangers of Kawasaki Disease on an awareness day on Friday, January 26. The illness is the leading cause of acquired heart disease in UK children.

St Rumon’s and St Peter’s schools in Tavistock are also making the day, with pupils wearing red to mark the awareness day organised by the UK Kawasaki Disease Foundation. The charity is an ‘influencing and policy-shaping’ organisation and supports families with advice.

Ever since baby Alexander died in 2020, Kathryn and her sister Hannah Rowlands have been raising awareness because lives can be saved the sooner the disease is diagnosed in babies.

If Kawasaki Disease goes undiagnosed and untreated or misdiagnosed as something else, a baby can go onto have heart disease for life.

Hannah said: “We’d like local councils and even businesses and schools perhaps to mark the awareness day by wearing red or lighting up buildings in red.

“The trouble is that because Kawasaki Disease is not common, it is not thought of by health professionals. Also, the symptoms are shared by other viral conditions and can be confused with Scarlet Fever, mumps, sepsis and toxic shock syndrome, which makes misdiagnosis even more likely.

“That’s why the awareness day is so important, to make sure as many health professional and parents and carers at least know the possibility of it being Kawasaki Disease and its symptoms. Kathryn and I had never heard of it when Alex was born.

"It’s worrying that Alex looked like the most healthy and happy baby and the only sign initially was a slight swelling on the side of his neck. If only we’d know, but it was too late, nothing could be done.”

Kawasaki Disease can be misdiagnosed as other diseases which are now making a comeback in the light of some resistance by people to having vaccines which would have been routinely given, said Hannah.

Kathryn, who runs Alex’s Oak Tree furniture recycling in Tavistock, said: “My business is named after Alex and we support the charity through my sales. I’m keeping Alex’s name alive through our charity work and trying to prevent other parents going through the same trauma. At the very least I can say he won’t have died in vain if we can also save lives.”

Kathryn now has a new baby Ida, born last year with partner Jon.

Grief drove her to find something therapeutic to help her deal with her loss and she discovered a talent for recycling furniture and her business was born.

If a child has a persistent high fever for five days or more with two or more of the following symptoms – bloodshot eyes, ‘strawberry tongue’, swollen glands, rash, swollen fingers/toes – then it could be Kawasaki Disease. Details: UK Foundation for Kawasaki at http://www.societi.org.uk/