Patient Care

Kawasaki Disease (Children)

What is Kawasaki Disease in Children?

Kawasaki Disease was described by Dr Kawasaki in Japan in the 1960s and is an inflammation of the arteries of the body - probably triggered by a virus infection.

The danger in the disease is that the inflammation can cause damage to the coronary arteries and affect the heart muscle.

Kawasaki Disease is an illness that involves the skin, mouth, and lymph nodes. It typically affects children who are under the age of five years old. The cause is unknown, but if the symptoms are recognised early, children with the disease can fully recover within a few days. If it goes untreated, it can lead to serious complications that can involve the heart.

It is more common among children of Japanese and Korean descent, but the illness can affect children of all ethnic groups.

What are the signs & symptoms of Kawasaki Disease in Children?

The first phase, which can last for up to two weeks, usually involves a persistent fever that is higher than 38oC (100.4oF), and lasts for at least five days.

The other symptoms that typically develop include:

  • Redness in the eyes
  • A rash on the child's stomach, chest, and genitals
  • Red, dry, cracked lips
  • Red, swollen palms of hands and soles of feet
  • Swollen lymph nodes
  • BCG scar may be prominent

During the second phase of the illness, which usually begins within two weeks of when the fever first begins, the skin on the child's hands and feet may begin to peel. Not all the features may be present.

How is Kawasaki Disease in Children diagnosed?

There is no one test to detect Kawasaki Disease, so a doctor typically diagnoses it by evaluating the child's symptoms and ruling out other conditions.

Typically, a child who is diagnosed with this illness will have a fever lasting five or more days and at least four of the following symptoms:

  • Redness in both eyes
  • A rash on the child's stomach, chest, and genitals
  • Red, dry, cracked lips
  • Red, swollen palms of hands and soles of feet
  • A large swollen lymph node in the neck
  • Peeling of hands and feet

If Kawasaki Disease is suspected, a doctor may order blood and urine tests. An ultrasound of the heart (echocardiogram) may be ordered to evaluate the coronary arteries of the the heart.

What are the treatment options for Kawasaki Disease in Children?

Treatment is normally done via an infusion over a few hours of immunoglobulin (special blood product) and oral aspirin - these dampen down the inflammation and reduce the likelihood of long term coronary artery damage.

Doctors can manage the symptoms of Kawasaki Disease if they catch it early. The symptoms typically disappear within two days after the start of treatment. Usually, if Kawasaki Disease is treated within 10 days of when the first symptoms begin, no heart problems will develop.

However, if the illness goes untreated (time period can vary, but likely for more than 12 to 14 days), it can lead to more serious complications that involve the child's heart. Kawasaki Disease can lead to inflammation of the blood vessels. This can be particularly dangerous because it can affect the coronary arteries, which supply blood to the heart.

Once the fever has resolved the child can go home. Aspirin is usually continued for a few weeks.

Caring for children with Kawasaki Disease?
Dental Care

Children and adults with congenital heart disease are at an increased risk of having a heart infection. Whilst this is rare the chances of it occurring can be reduced by taking precautions.

Infections in the heart can occur for no apparent reason but are more common if the teeth are rotten. Germs spread into the blood stream and infect the heart. Good dental hygiene is therefore important as are regular visits to the dentist.

If dental treatment is required then some procedures can cause germs to spill into the blood and infect the heart.

It is therefore important that the dentist is informed about the heart condition before treatment. The usual method of avoiding this problem is to give a single dose of antibiotics one hour prior to the treatment to kill any germs beforehand.


Children who have Kawasaki Disease with persistent coronary artery problems are restricted to light exercise (like golf, cricket). Exercise is important even in those with heart disease. It improves the heart function and general sense of well being. It is associated with increased life expectancy and a reduced risk of heart disease in later life. In addition physical activity helps with controlling weight and reducing blood pressure.

There are different types of exercise. In static exercise the muscles contract but there is little joint movement eg weight lifting. In dynamic exercise the muscles contract and also move the joints eg running. Each places a different stress on the body and cardiovascular system. In general most types of sports are a mix of the two.

Children usually take part in more rigorous exercise at school as they grow older. In Singapore, physical education (PE) tends to teach games skills rather than competitive sports. However, pupils may take sports for their co-curricular activities (CCA), where training is more intense and competitive. Training for the NAPFA test is also intensive, and some pupils with heart problems may have difficulty with the 2.4km run as they often do not perform as well at endurance-type activities.

As always, parents should seek the doctor's advice when deciding how much exercise is safe and to what level. This is particularly as there are no published guidelines for activity levels in children.

However some children with an immune deficiency (DiGeorge syndrome or an isomerism), and those who are receiving immunosuppression, for example following transplantation, require a different vaccination schedule.

Travel Advice

Before travelling anywhere unusual or a long distance make sure that your child has:

  • Had a recent medical check up
  • Appropriate insurance cover
  • Adequate supply of medicine
  • Acess to quality local health care in your destination country
  • Relevant documentation about their heart condition

Those with cyanotic heart disease ("blue" due to reduced oxygen in the blood) can still travel, but aircraft at altitude have less oxygen in the air than at ground level and so the blueness may be more apparent. This does not usually cause symptoms but if necessary, airlines can arrange for additional oxygen to be available on the aircraft.

For long aircraft flights, it is sensible to use the support stockings and take aspirin or an equivalent unless your doctor advises against it.


Special diets are not normally necessary for those with heart disease. As with everyone, it is important to have a balanced diet and not to eat to excess. It is however important to maintain a normal weight - excess weight means more work for the heart.


Most children with heart disease are no more prone to infections than any other children. Some however are likely to get chest infections - particularly those with holes in the heart (ASD, VSD, PDA).

In addition, some heart diseases are also associated with an immune deficiency and infections, and therefore are more common. The majority of childhood infections are viruses and get better without antibiotics. In any case of doubt, professional medical help should be sought and the doctor will decide if antibiotics are necessary.


Most children with heart disease do not require medication. Some however need them to:

  • Reduce the body fluids
  • Assist the pumping action
  • Control rhythm problems
  • Thin the blood

The majority of these medicines have been used for many years and are very safe, but like all drugs, side effects may occur. This is especially if there is another illness or a change in other medication. If unusual symptoms or side effects occur whilst on medication, it is important to inform the doctor immediately.

Find A Doctor

Click here to access our Find A Doctor directory for a list of doctors treating this condition across our NUHS institutions.

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National University Health System
  • National University Hospital
  • Ng Teng Fong General Hospital
  • Alexandra Hospital
  • Jurong Community Hospital
  • National University Polyclinics
  • Jurong Medical Centre
  • National University Cancer Institute, Singapore
  • National University Heart Centre, Singapore
  • National University Centre for Oral Health, Singapore
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  • Yong Loo Lin School of Medicine
  • Faculty of Dentistry
  • Saw Swee Hock School of Public Health
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