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Kawasaki Disease - Pictures, Symptoms, Contagious, Causes, Treatment

Updated on December 9, 2013

Kawasaki Disease Pictures

What is Kawasaki Disease?

Kawasaki disease is an uncommon autoimmune disease that mainly affects children. The disease is also known as lymph node syndrome and Kawasaki syndrome and involves the blood vessels. The disease affects mostly the lymph nodes, mouth, blood vessels, mucous membrane and the skin.

Kawasaki disease is marked by a high fever that usually last for five days. The disease is not contagious and is treatable with children recovering without any long-term problem. It is a disease that commonly strike children below the age of 5 years. Kawasaki disease may be non-contagious and treatable but the serious effect is potentially fatal which may result from coronary artery aneurysm in children if the disease is left untreated.

Kawasaki disease was first described by Dr. Tomisaku Kawasaki in 1967 when he reported 50 cases of characteristic sickness in children in Tokyo Red Cross Medical Center in Japan. The children were all febrile and exhibited rash, lips and oral cavity inflammation, edema of hands and feet including erythema. The disease became endemic in Japan until it reached the USA in 1976 particularly in Honolulu Hawaii. The case reported involved 12 children who displayed the symptoms and onset of the disease.

The lymph node syndrome can affect children under the age of 5 years regardless of the ethnic group, although it is prevalent in Asian countries especially to children in Japan where the disease is prevalent. It is more common in boys than in girls and the peak onset in children is from 6 to 12 months. The earliest age reported happened to a 20 day old baby in Japan.


The onset of signs and symptoms of Kawasaki disease is divided into three phases. The initial symptom of Kawasaki disease is the onset of a high grade fever that usually last for 5 to 8 days and is unresponsive to treatment with paracetamol and ibuprofen.

The symptoms of the first phase of the disease include the following:

  • Onset of high fever of 101.3F or 38.5C and lasts for a week or two
  • Conjunctivitis with the absence of thick discharge
  • Development of rash on the trunk and the genital area
  • Observable strawberry tongue described as swollen tongue with dry, cracked lips and extremely red discoloration of the tongue
  • The palms of the hands and soles of the feet are both red and swollen
  • Palpable lymph nodes on the neck

The second phase of the disease includes the following symptoms:

  • Diarrhea
  • Abdominal pain
  • Experience of joint pain
  • Vomiting
  • Skin peeling of the hands and feet including the tips of fingers and toes
  • Irritability

The third phase of the disease is the convalescent stage where the signs and symptoms are slowly resolving. The convalescent stage takes about 6 to 8 weeks from the onset of the disease until full recovery. This is especially true to Kawasaki disease promptly treated and without any serious medical complications.


The exact cause of Kawasaki disease remains unidentified. It is presumed to be an interaction with genetic factors and environmental factors. Infection is also believed to be another cause of the disease. Current theories however are focused on the immunological factor and infectious cause.

Risk factors are considered for the susceptibility of the child to Kawasaki disease and this includes the following:

Gender - boys are more susceptible to develop the disease as compared to girls

Age - children under the age of five are at risk for developing the disease as the onset of the disease is prevalent in children under 5 years of age

Ethnic group - the disease is common in Asian children especially children of Japanese descent where the disease have a higher rate of incidence


No specific laboratory test can be conducted to diagnose the disease. The disease can be identified through the clinical manifestation. Five criteria have to be met to confirm the diagnosis and this includes:

  • Development of conjunctivitis without the presence of thick discharge or pus.
  • Generalized skin peeling of the palms of the hands and soles of the feet with edema of the hands and the feet.
  • Manifestation of diffuse macular-papular erythematous rash
  • Palpable swelling of the lymph nodes
  • Onset of “strawberry” tongue or the extreme redness of the tongue, with cracked and dry lips.

The process of isolation or ruling out of disease that have similar manifestations with Kawasaki disease is another way of diagnosing the disease and this may include the following:

  • Onset of fever and rash that is similar with the Scarlet fever that resulted from Streptococcal bacterial infection
  • Symptom of joint pain that may be the sign of the onset of juvenile rheumatoid arthritis
  • Steven-Johnson syndrome that involves the mucous membrane
  • A measles that have a similar rash with Kawasaki disease

Laboratory test may also be requested to isolate other disease and may also help in detecting Kawasaki disease.

Urine tests may be requested to rule out the other disease.

Blood test to determine elevation in white blood cell and the identification of anemia and inflammation indicative of the disease.

Electrocardiogram may also be requested to measure the impulses of the heartbeat of the child as Kawasaki disease can cause serious complications in the heart such as a coronary artery aneurysm.


Kawasaki disease is treatable but prompt medical intervention is needed to prevent serious heart complications that are potentially fatal to the child. The success of treatment lies in the early detection of the disease. The goal of treatment in Kawasaki disease is to reduce the fever and the inflammation that can potentially damage the heart.

Aspirin is initially given in high doses to reduce the inflammation and fever and can also help in reducing joint pain and inflammation. A low dose of aspirin is given once the fever has abated.

Gamma globulin is administered via intravenous. This is prescribed to reduce the risk of coronary artery aneurysm.

Is Kawasaki Disease Contagious?

The exact cause of Kawasaki disease remains unknown. The disease however is regarded as non-contagious. Measures to prevent the disease have not been established as well as the exact etiology of the disease is unclear.


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