What is Kawasaki disease? Symptoms and treatment

What is Kawasaki disease? Symptoms and treatment

Kawasaki disease is one of the leading causes cardiac arrest for children under the age of five, and cases have increased dramatically in the last five years.

The latest figures from NHS show the number of children who are treated for that disease in England and Wales has doubled, and 706 of them need treatment.

The average over the past five years was 336 who needed treatment.

What is Kawasaki disease?

Also known as mucocutaneous lymph node syndrome, the condition can cause some blood vessels around the heart to dilate and, if not treated in time, can be fatal.

The rise in cases of the disease has prompted a plea for more plasma donations to help young people recover from it.

Children are treated with immunoglobulin – a medicine made from donated plasma.

Without treatment, around 1 in 4 children with Kawasaki disease may develop heart complications, which can be fatal in around 2 to 3 per cent of cases, according to the NHS.

Who can get it?

It mainly affects children under 5 years of age.

Each year in the UK, around 8 in every 100,000 children develop Kawasaki disease, and studies have shown that it is 1.5 times more common in boys than in girls.

How to recognize the symptoms of Kawasaki disease

A child with Kawasaki disease is likely to have a high fever that lasts five days or longer and possibly one or more of the following symptoms:

  • rash
  • swollen glands on the neck
  • dry, red, chapped lips
  • swollen, lumpy, red tongue (“strawberry tongue”)
  • red inside the mouth and at the back of the throat
  • swollen and red hands and feet
  • red eyes

A common early symptom of the disease is a red and swollen tongue with red spots, called “strawberry tongue”


After a few weeks, with proper treatment, the symptoms become less severe, but in some children the treatment may take longer.

What to do if you think your child has it

If your child has a persistently high fever and one or more of the symptoms of Kawasaki disease, see your GP straight away or call 111 if you cannot speak to a GP.

If your baby is under one year old, we advise you to visit a general practitioner immediately or call 111.

The symptoms of Kawasaki disease can be similar to those of other conditions that cause fever in children.

Kawasaki disease cannot be prevented, but children can make a full recovery within 6 to 8 weeks if diagnosed and treated in time.

It’s not clear exactly what causes Kawasaki disease, but researchers believe the spike in cases may be due to the re-mixing of children after Covid-19 pandemic.


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