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Kawasaki disease

What is Kawasaki disease?

Find out more about Kawasaki disease and the symptoms.

Author: Natasha Dadour MPH, MPAS, PA-C, Physician Associate.

What is Kawasaki disease?

Kawasaki disease is a condition that mainly affects children under the age of 5. It's also known as mucocutaneous lymph node syndrome.

After a few weeks, and with the correct treatment, the symptoms become less severe, but it can take longer than this in some children.

What are the symptoms of Kawasaki disease?

The characteristic symptoms are a high temperature that lasts for 5 days or more, with:

  • a rash
  • swollen glands in the neck
  • dry, cracked lips
  • red fingers or toes
  • red eyes

What causes Kawasaki disease?

Speak to one of our GPs urgently, or call 111 if your child is unwell and has the above symptoms.

If your baby is less than 6 months old, it's even more important to speak to a GP or call 111 straight away.

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

Kawasaki disease can't be prevented. Children can make a full recovery within 6 to 8 weeks if it's diagnosed and treated promptly, but complications can develop.

It's important to see a GP and start treatment as soon as possible.

It's not clear exactly what causes Kawasaki disease. It may be due to a combination of factors.

What are the treatments for Kawasaki disease?

Kawasaki disease is always treated in hospital.

It's best if treatment begins as soon as possible. The sooner treatment starts, the quicker the recovery time and there's less risk of complications developing.

Intravenous immunoglobulin (IVIG), a solution of antibodies, and aspirin are the 2 main medicines used to treat Kawasaki disease.

Complications of Kawasaki disease

Kawasaki disease causes the blood vessels to become inflamed and swollen, which can lead to complications in the blood vessels that supply blood to the heart (coronary arteries).

Around 25% of children with Kawasaki disease experience complications with their heart.

If the condition goes untreated, complications can be fatal in about 2 to 3% of cases.

Because of this, the condition has become the leading cause of acquired heart disease (heart disease that develops after birth) in the UK.

Who's affected

  • Around 8 in every 100,000 children develop Kawasaki disease in the UK each year.
  • Research carried out in England from 1998 to 2003 found 72% of children with Kawasaki disease were under the age of 5.
  • The condition was also shown to be 1.5 times more common in boys than girls.

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