Kawasaki disease is a rare condition that affects young children under the age of 5, most often children of Japanese or Korean descent. It's an unusual disease in that if the symptoms are recognized early, kids with Kawasaki disease can fully recover within a few days. But if it's left untreated, the disease can lead to serious complications that affect the heart and can even lead to death.

Kawasaki disease, also known as Kawasaki syndrome, involves inflammation of the blood vessels that affects a child's skin, mouth and lymph nodes. It was first documented in 1961 by a Japanese pediatrician named Tomisaku Kawasaki. It is a rare condition that occurs in 19 out of every 100,000 kids in the United States. It occurs more frequently in children of Japanese and Korean descent, but it has been known to affect all ethnic groups.

Doctors don't yet know what causes Kawasaki disease, so there is little information available about how to prevent it. But the disease produces classic telltale signs and symptoms that — if recognized early — can lead to a quick diagnosis and cure.

Here's what to look for:

  • Persistent fever higher than 104 degrees Fahrenheit that lasts for at least five days.
  • Red eyes (similar to pink eye but without the goo)
  • Rash on the stomach, chest and genitals
  • Red, dry, cracked and chapped lips
  • Swollen, strawberry-colored tongue
  • Sore throat
  • Swollen lymph nodes
  • Swollen and reddish palms of the hands and soles of the feet
  • Irritability

If the symptoms persist without treatment for more than a week or two, you might also see:

  • Peeling skin on the hands and feet
  • Achy joints
  • Diarrhea accompanied by stomach pain and cramps
  • Vomiting
Kawasaki disease: Know the signs and symptoms
Learn how to spot the signs of this rare but dangerous condition that most commonly affects children of Japanese or Korean descent.