Introduction 

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

The characteristic symptoms are a high temperature that lasts for more than five days, with:

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

After a few weeks the symptoms become less severe, but may last longer. At this stage, the affected child may have peeling skin on their fingers and toes.

Read more about the symptoms of Kawasaki disease.

When to see your GP

See your GP if your child is unwell and has the above symptoms. If your baby is less than six months old, you should be particularly cautious and see your GP as soon as possible.

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. However, most children make a full recovery within six to eight weeks if it's diagnosed and treated promptly.

Read more about diagnosing Kawasaki disease.

It's thought Kawasaki disease is caused by an infection, although the exact cause isn't fully understood.

Read more about the possible causes of Kawasaki disease.

Treating Kawasaki disease

Kawasaki disease is usually treated in hospital as it can sometimes lead to serious complications.

It's best if treatment begins as soon as possible, ideally within 10 days of the symptoms starting. The sooner treatment starts, the quicker the recovery time and the less risk there is of complications developing.

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

Read more about treating 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).

Up to 5% of children with Kawasaki disease experience complications with their heart. Complications can be fatal in about 1% of cases.

Because of this, the condition has become the leading cause of acquired heart disease – where the heart's blood supply is blocked or interrupted – in the UK.

Read more about the complications of Kawasaki disease.

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 five. The condition was also shown to be 1.5 times more common in boys than girls.

Support

The Kawasaki Support Group UK can provide you with additional information and advice about your child's condition.

Information about your child

If your child has been affected by Kawasaki disease, your clinical team will pass information about him or her on to the National Congenital Anomaly and Rare Diseases Registration Service (NCARDRS).

This helps scientists look for better ways to prevent and treat this condition. You can opt out of the register at any time.

Find out more about the register.

Page last reviewed: 22/03/2016

Next review due: 22/03/2018