Healthdirect Free Australian health advice you can count on.

Medical problem? Call 1800 022 222. If you need urgent medical help, call triple zero immediately

healthdirect Australia is a free service where you can talk to a nurse or doctor who can help you know what to do.

beginning of content

Kawasaki disease

5-minute read

Key facts

  • Kawasaki disease starts with a high fever that lasts for several days.
  • If your child has Kawasaki disease, they will need treatment in hospital.
  • Early treatment is essential to prevent heart complications.
  • Most children with Kawasaki disease recover completely.
  • There is no clear link between Kawasaki disease and COVID-19 infection.

What is Kawasaki disease?

Kawasaki disease is a rare illness that mostly affects children under 5 years of age. The exact cause is unknown, but it involve swelling of the blood vessels, including those that lead to the heart. When blood vessels are inflamed, it is called vasculitis. Kawasaki disease is a collection of symptoms caused by vasculitis.

What are the symptoms of Kawasaki disease?

If your child has Kawasaki disease, their symptoms may include:

  • a fever that lasts for at least 5 days
  • a rash on the trunk, limbs and around the nappy area
  • red, bloodshot eyes without discharge
  • red, swollen, cracked lips
  • a strawberry-like red tongue
  • swollen hands and feet, with red palms and soles
  • swollen glands in the neck
  • joint pain

Your child may also be very uncomfortable, irritable and will usually look unwell. There are many conditions that have similar symptoms. Your doctor will exclude these before diagnosing Kawasaki disease.

A condition called Paediatric Multisystem Inflammatory Syndrome (PIMS) has many similar symptoms to Kawasaki disease, such as, fever, rash, red eyes, lips and mouth and swollen neck glands. PIMS is a rare complication of coronavirus COVID 19 infection and affects children. The condition appears as a new illness 2 to 6 weeks after infection with COVID 19. If your child develops any of these symptoms after having COVID 19, see your doctor immediately.

What causes Kawasaki disease?

Doctors don’t yet know the exact cause of Kawasaki disease. It is thought to be caused by an abnormal response of your child’s immune system to a common infection. Kawasaki disease is not contagious.

Kawasaki is also more common in people with North Asian ethnicity and is more common in males than females.

When should I see my doctor?

Contact your doctor if your child is showing signs of Kawasaki disease or has had fever for more than 2 days. Your doctor might refer your child to a paediatrician or hospital emergency department.

FIND A HEALTH SERVICE — The Service Finder can help you find doctors, pharmacies, hospitals and other health services.

ASK YOUR DOCTOR — Preparing for an appointment? Use the Question Builder for general tips on what to ask your GP or specialist.

How is Kawasaki disease diagnosed?

Kawasaki disease is difficult to diagnose because there is no single test to identify it. A doctor will review the signs and symptoms of the disease, in a child that has had ongoing fever, with no other likely explanation. Other investigations including blood tests, or an echocardiogram (heart ultrasound) may be performed to try to determine the likelihood of diagnosing Kawasaki disease.

How is Kawasaki disease treated?

If your child is diagnosed with Kawasaki disease, they will be treated in hospital with medicines called immunoglobulins — these have been proven to help prevent heart problems. Your child may also be given a low dose of aspirin, to help reduce the inflammation.

Most likely, your child will feel better the next day. On rare occasions, the fever may persist or come back, which may mean they need more treatment.

Your child’s doctor may recommend they continue aspirin treatment for up to 2 months after they leave hospital. They will also most likely need long-term follow up by a paediatric cardiologist (a children’s heart doctor), just to be sure they are recovering well.

You should delay your child’s MMR (measles, mumps, rubella) and varicella (chickenpox) immunisations until 11 months after the immunoglobulin treatment.

Can Kawasaki disease be prevented?

Kawasaki disease cannot be prevented. The risk of heart complications due to Kawasaki disease can be reduced with early diagnosis and treatment.

Complications of Kawasaki disease

The most serious complication of Kawasaki disease is inflammation of the arteries that provide the blood supply to the heart (the coronary arteries). This can cause an abnormal swelling of the artery wall, known as an aneurysm, which can cause heart problems in the future. This occurs in about 1 in 4 children if they do not receive treatment.

Your child will need to have a follow-up echocardiogram (ultrasound of the heart) around 6 weeks after they go home from hospital. This is to make sure that no further damage has occurred to the coronary arteries. If this test is normal, the doctor will most likely ask you to stop giving your child aspirin. If damage has occurred to your child’s coronary arteries, they will need ongoing care by a paediatric cardiologist (heart doctor).

Resources and support

For more information about Kawasaki disease and its symptoms, diagnosis and treatment visit:

Learn more here about the development and quality assurance of healthdirect content.

Last reviewed: July 2023

Back To Top

Need more information?

These trusted information partners have more on this topic.

Top results

Kawasaki Disease

Kawasaki disease is a serious illness that affects hundreds of Australian children each year and many thousands worldwide. The most serious complication of Kawasaki Disease is damage to the coronary arteries, which supply blood to the heart.

Read more on HeartKids website

Kawasaki disease | Sydney Children's Hospitals Network

What is Kawasaki disease? Kawasaki disease is an uncommon disease affecting mainly preschool children

Read more on Sydney Children's Hospitals Network website

Kawasaki disease -

Kawasaki disease is a childhood illness that causes inflammation of the blood vessels (vasculitis) and a high fever. Most children make a full recovery, but some develop heart problems.

Read more on myDr website

Kawasaki disease (mucocutaneous lymph node syndrome) | HealthEngine Blog

Kawasaki disease causes inflammation of blood vessels, mostly affecting children. The cause is unknown but thought to be related to infection.

Read more on healthengine website

ACD A-Z of Skin - Kawasaki’s disease

Kawasaki’s disease is a rare form of vasculitis (inflammation of blood vessels). It can affect many parts of the body.

Read more on Australasian College of Dermatologists website

Acquired Heart Disease In Children | HeartKids

Acquired heart disease can occur in both children & adults. The most common conditions are Rheumatic heart disease and Kawasaki disease. Find out more.

Read more on HeartKids website

Swollen lymph nodes: babies, kids & teens | Raising Children Network

Children might get swollen lymph nodes if they’re fighting infection or have an injury or allergy. Read how to recognise and treat swollen lymph nodes.

Read more on website

Seizures: first aid -

Find out how to help someone who is having a seizure with this first aid information on seizures. Plus, learn when to call an ambulance.

Read more on myDr website

Heart abnormality birth defects - Better Health Channel

Some congenital heart defects are mild and cause no significant disturbance to the way the heart functions.

Read more on Better Health Channel website

Lichen sclerosus -

Lichen sclerosus is a skin condition that usually affects the genital area. It causes itching, pain and scarring, and most often occurs in older women.

Read more on myDr website

Healthdirect 24hr 7 days a week hotline

24 hour health advice you can count on

1800 022 222

Government Accredited with over 140 information partners

We are a government-funded service, providing quality, approved health information and advice

Australian Government, health department logo ACT Government logo New South Wales government, health department logo Northen Territory Government logo Government of South Australia, health department logo Tasmanian government logo Victorian government logo Government of Western Australia, health department logo

Healthdirect Australia acknowledges the Traditional Owners of Country throughout Australia and their continuing connection to land, sea and community. We pay our respects to the Traditional Owners and to Elders both past and present.