What is Kawasaki disease?

Kawasaki disease is an acute childhood illness that causes inflammation of the blood vessels. Although the initial illness is not usually severe, it can sometimes cause lasting heart problems. Early treatment reduces the risk of developing heart problems.


Kawasaki disease begins with a high fever. The child may also develop swelling or irritation in the hands, feet, mouth, lips, throat, lymph nodes and skin. Bloodshot eyes and irritability are also common.

Other symptoms can include:

  • joint pain and swelling
  • cough
  • vomiting
  • diarrhea
  • abdominal pain


To diagnose Kawasaki disease, your child’s doctor will do a physical exam and may order blood and urine tests. Your child may also need one or more of the following tests:

  • echocardiogram (cardiac ultrasound)
  • electrocardiogram (EKG)


Children with Kawasaki disease are usually treated with IVIG (intravenous immunoglobulin). The doctor may also give your child doses of aspirin to help control the fever and relieve other symptoms. Usually, treatment brings a quick response but ongoing follow up is required.

Learn more about Pediatric Cardiology services at Boston Children’s Health Physicians.

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