What is Kawasaki Disease?

Kawasaki disease is a rare condition that primarily affects children. The disease can affect any organ system, but usually involves inflammation of the blood vessels in the heart. This inflammation can lead to serious long-term health problems.

What Causes Kawasaki Disease?

The exact cause of Kawasaki is unknown. Researchers have found that a combination of a viral or bacterial infection and genetic factors may be responsible. Other potential causes include exposure to certain toxins or allergens, stress or trauma.

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Signs & Symptoms

Kawasaki disease can lead to serious health problems, such as aneurysms of the coronary arteries, if not treated as soon as possible.

Your child should see a doctor as soon as possible with four or more of the following symptoms:  

  • Fever 
  • Rash and peeling skin on hands and feet 
  • Redness and swelling in the eyes 
  • Swollen lymph nodes in the neck area 
  • Redness and irritation of the lips and tongue
  • Cracked or dry lips 
  • Swollen joints

Risk Factors

  • Age: Children under 5 are most at risk for Kawasaki.
  • Gender: Boys are more likely to develop this disease.
  • Ethnicity: The disease is most common in children of Asian descent.
  • Environmental factors: Air pollution and exposure to toxins.
  • Family history: A history of the disease or genetic predisposition may contribute to an increased risk.

A five year old Asian boy wavingDiagnosis

X-ray or CT scan aid in the diagnosis of Kawasaki by assessing damage to the heart or lungs. To confirm the diagnosis, additional tests may be needed including:

Blood tests will measure the different types of white and red blood cells in your body. This helps the doctor determine if there are any abnormalities or infections present.

Echocardiogram uses sound waves to create a picture of your heart. This helps identify any damage caused by Kawasaki.

Urinalysis checks for signs of infection or inflammation in the urinary tract.


Intravenous immunoglobulin (IVIG) is often used to treat Kawasaki disease. When left untreated, Kawasaki disease can go away on its own, but can lead to damage of the heart and other organs. Most children with Kawasaki make a full recovery.

CHRISTUS Children's - The Heart Center

CHRISTUS Children's specializes in pediatric care for infants, children and adolescents as well as maternal and fetal care for women with high-risk and routine pregnancies. From birth to age 18, CHRISTUS Children’s provides comprehensive, coordinated care from a team of pediatric and maternal experts.

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