Go back to the Societi website

Kawasaki Disease – Symptoms and Causes

What are the symptoms of Kawasaki Disease?

Kawasaki Disease usually begins with a high temperature (fever), which continues for several days. Many, but not all, children develop other symptoms such as:



Kawasaki Disease can be present with some or all of these symptoms. Doctors sometimes refer to ‘incomplete Kawasaki Disease’ or ‘complete Kawasaki Disease’ but most doctors today know this is just one illness where symptoms can vary, child by child. If your child has been given a diagnosis of incomplete Kawasaki Disease or complete Kawasaki Disease, don’t worry about that – their treatment will be the same. It just refers to how many symptoms they showed at a particular time.

Most symptoms of Kawasaki Disease occur in the first few days of the illness, although they are often not all present at the same time. Other symptoms which can occur include irritability (children with Kawasaki Disease are characteristically irritable!), loss of appetite, moodiness, diarrhoea, tummy ache, vomiting, jaundice (skin and whites of the eyes going a little yellow in colour) and a new inflammation (redness) at the site of an old BCG immunisation – generally at the top of the left arm.

Later, at between 14 and 21 days after the start of the fever, skin peeling on fingers and toes can occur but this only happens to about half of children affected by Kawasaki Disease. Some doctors still look for skin peeling very early on when a child has Kawasaki Disease, when in fact it is a sign of healing, and will almost always only come later, if it occurs at all.

What causes Kawasaki Disease?

There are lots of theories around the cause of Kawasaki Disease and much research ongoing across the globe to try and identify its cause. But at the moment, no-one is certain of the cause.

There is some evidence to suggest that some children are more likely because of their genes (a genetic predisposition) to be affected by Kawasaki Disease. Some researchers believe it could be a child’s response to an infection or a number of infections although no infectious cause has been found. There are theories too that suggest an environmental agent – perhaps something which is airborne or related to water bodies, as the cause. Whilst there is much research ongoing, some of it appears contradictory – and the patterns of incidence of Kawasaki Disease (who gets it and where) are different in different places.

In the UK, what we do know is that Kawasaki Disease is more common in children who live in rural areas – and children of black and minority ethnic backgrounds are more likely to be affected than those of Caucasian (white) backgrounds.