What is Kawasaki Disease? Symptoms and treatment

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

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

The average over the past five years was 336 requiring treatment.

What is Kawasaki Disease?

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

The rise in cases of the disease has led to a call for more plasma donations to help young people recover.

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

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

Who can get it?

It mainly affects children under 5 years old.

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

Recognize symptoms of Kawasaki disease

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

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  • swollen glands in the neck
  • dry, red cracked lips
  • a swollen, bumpy, red tongue (“strawberry tongue”)
  • red in the mouth and at the back of the throat
  • swollen and 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 and swollen tongue with red spots, also known as “strawberry tongue.”

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After a few weeks and with proper treatment, the 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 fever and one or more symptoms of Kawasaki disease, go to the doctor immediately or call 111 if you cannot speak to the doctor.

If your baby is younger than one year, it is advisable to go to the doctor immediately or call 111.

The symptoms of Kawasaki disease can be similar to those of 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 the disease is diagnosed and treated promptly.

It’s not clear exactly what causes Kawasaki disease, but researchers thought the spike in cases could be due to children mixing again after the Covid-19 pandemic.

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