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.

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 of the hands or feet. Peeling of the skin, usually beginning around the nails, is often a later finding
  • Rash mostly on the trunk, but sometimes elsewhere
  • Swollen lymph node(s) in the neck

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