What is Kawasaki disease?

Kawasaki disease is an uncommon but important cause of fever in children. It most often occurs in children 6 months to 5 years of age. Kawasaki disease belongs to a family of illnesses where vasculitis or inflammation of the blood vessels can occur. The most important blood vessels that can be involved in Kawasaki disease are those of the heart, specifically the coronary arteries that provide the heart with blood. In Kawasaki disease, inflamed blood vessels may become weakened and stretch in size, which can lead to aneurysms of the coronary arteries. These can be seen by a test called an echocardiogram, which uses an ultrasound technique usually from the surface of the chest to view the heart and arteries.

Kawasaki disease is the most common cause of acquired heart disease in children in the United States and Japan. Fortunately, treatment is usually effective in preventing heart disease from occurring.

What causes Kawasaki disease?

The cause of Kawasaki disease is unknown, although more cases occur in late winter and early spring. Kawasaki disease is not spread by person-to-person contact.

What are the symptoms of Kawasaki disease?

Features of Kawasaki disease can include:

  • Fever lasting for at least 5 days
  • Irritability
  • Red eyes without discharge
  • Redness or cracking of the lips, tongue, or throat
  • Swelling and/or redness, and/or peeling of the skin, usually beginning around the nails and often involving the arms and/or legs
  • Rash mostly on the trunk, but sometimes elsewhere
  • Swollen neck lymph node(s)

When should a child be hospitalized for Kawasaki disease?

The reasons for admission vary, but often a child who is being evaluated for Kawasaki disease is often evaluated in the hospital.

What diagnostic tests will my child undergo?

The diagnosis is mostly based on compatible symptoms and signs. Other tests -- such as blood tests and an echocardiogram -- are also usually obtained. It is most important that other causes of fever be ruled out before the diagnosis of Kawasaki disease is made.

What treatments/management approaches will be considered to care for my child?

  • Immunoglobulins which are human blood proteins are given by vein (this is also called IVIg)
  • Aspirin is commonly given
  • Fluids are given by vein for hydration
  • Medications for pain and swelling
  • Cold compresses

When will my child be ready for discharge?

Your child will be ready for discharge when he/she:

  • Is drinking fluids
  • Is tolerating medicines by mouth
  • Is no longer having a fever

What will be the follow-up for my child after discharge?

  • Follow-up will be with your primary health care provider or with an infectious disease doctor within 5 to 7 days of discharge. Together with the cardiologist, your child will be followed closely until there is no longer any need for further therapy.
  • Follow-up echocardiograms will be ordered by cardiology after discharge.

When should you call your health care provider?

Call your health care provider if your child has:

  • A recurrence of fever
  • Any return in previous symptoms that are worsening


This information is provided by the Cleveland Clinic and is not intended to replace the medical advice of your doctor or health care provider. Please consult your health care provider for advice about a specific medical condition.This document was last reviewed on: 2/18/2014...#13457

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