Kawasaki Disease | Symptoms & Causes

What are the symptoms of Kawasaki disease?

The symptoms of Kawasaki disease usually appear in phases, and can change or evolve over time. Symptoms of classic Kawasaki disease include:

  • high fever
  • rash
  • redness or swelling of the hands, followed by peeling of the fingertips or toes
  • bloodshot eyes (both eyes), without drainage
  • red, cracked lips and a swollen, red (strawberry) tongue
  • enlarged lymph node in the neck

In addition, some children with Kawasaki disease may have the following associated symptoms:

  • irritability
  • joint pain or temporary arthritis
  • diarrhea or vomiting
  • abdominal pain

What are the causes of Kawasaki disease?

Despite decades of research, the causes of Kawasaki disease are still unknown. We suspect there could be multiple reasons that people develop this condition. The disease is not contagious (spread from person to person). Outbreaks have been reported in waves within geographical areas, and the disease tends to occur more frequently in winter and early spring.

Because no bacteria or virus has been proven to cause Kawasaki disease, some experts believe that Kawasaki disease is an immune reaction that children may have to a variety of infectious agents. Genetic susceptibility may play a role.

Kawasaki disease occurs more often in Japan than in any other country. Children of Asian or Asian-American heritage have a higher risk of Kawasaki disease regardless of where they live — although Kawasaki disease can occur in any racial or ethnic group.