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What is Kawasaki disease? Symptoms and treatment

Kawasaki disease is one of the leading causes of heart failure in children under five years of age, and the number of cases has increased dramatically over the past five years.

The latest NHS figures show that the number of children receiving treatment for the disease in England and Wales has doubled, with 706 requiring treatment.

An average of 336 people needed treatment over the past five years.

What is Kawasaki disease?

Also known as mucocutaneous lymph node syndrome, this condition can cause some of the blood vessels around the heart to enlarge and can be fatal if not treated in time.

Due to the increasing number of cases of the disease, more plasma donations are being called for to help young people recover from the disease.

Children are treated with immunoglobulin, a drug made from donated plasma.

Without treatment, about 1 in 4 children with Kawasaki disease will develop a heart complication, and about 2-3% of cases can be fatal, according to the NHS.

who can get it?

It mainly affects children under the age of 5.

About 8 out of 100,000 children in the UK develop Kawasaki disease each year, and studies show that it affects boys 1.5 times more often than girls.

How to recognize the symptoms of Kawasaki disease

Children with Kawasaki disease are more likely to have a high fever lasting more than 5 days and may have one or more of the following symptoms:

  • rash
  • swollen glands on the neck
  • dry, red and cracked lips
  • Swollen, bumpy, red tongue (“strawberry tongue”)
  • red inside the mouth and back of the throat
  • swollen red hands and feet
  • red eyes

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


After a few weeks, the symptoms will subside with proper treatment, but some children may take longer to heal.

What to do if you think your child is infected

If your child has a persistent high fever 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 1 year old, we recommend that you see your GP or call 911 as soon as possible.

Symptoms of Kawasaki disease may resemble those of other illnesses that cause fever in children.

Kawasaki disease cannot be prevented, but with prompt diagnosis and treatment, complete recovery can be achieved within 6 to 8 weeks.

The exact cause of Kawasaki disease is not clear, but researchers believe the spike in cases may be due to children being re-mixed after the Covid-19 pandemic.



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