What is Kawasaki disease? Symptoms, treatments and when to seek help

What is Kawasaki disease?  Symptoms, treatments and when to seek help

Kawasaki disease is a leading cause of heart failure in children under five, and cases have risen dramatically over the past five years.

Latest NHS figures show the number of children being treated for the disease in England and Wales has doubled, with 706 needing treatment.

The average over the previous five years was 336 people requiring treatment.

What is Kawasaki disease?

Also known as mucocutaneous lymph node syndrome, the disease can cause certain blood vessels around the heart to become enlarged and, if not treated in time, can be fatal.

Rising cases of the disease have prompted a call for more plasma donations to help young people recover.

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

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

Who can get it?

It mainly affects children under 5 years old.

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

How to Spot the Symptoms of Kawasaki Disease

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

  • a skin rash
  • swollen glands in the neck
  • dry and red cracked lips
  • a swollen, bumpy, red tongue (“strawberry tongue”)
  • red inside the mouth and at the back of the throat
  • swollen, red hands and feet
  • red eyes
A common early symptom of the disease is a red and swollen tongue with red spots, referred to as ‘strawberry tongue’

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


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

What to do if you think your child has it

If your child has a persistent high temperature and one or more symptoms of Kawasaki disease, see a GP urgently or call 111 if you cannot speak to a GP.

If your baby is less than a year old, you are advised to see a GP or call 111 straight away.

Symptoms of Kawasaki disease can be similar to other conditions that cause fever in children.

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

It’s unclear exactly what causes Kawasaki disease, but researchers believe the spike in cases could be due to children mixing again after the Covid-19 pandemic.

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