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9 Childhood Illnesses: Get the Facts

Impetigo

This skin infection is most common in younger children. It starts when staph or strep bacteria gets in a cut, scratch, or bite. 

It can affect any area of the body but happens most often around the mouth, nose, and hands. Babies sometimes get the irritation in their diaper area.

Symptoms:

  • Tiny blisters that burst. Fluid from the sores creates a crust that looks like a coat of honey.

Touching or scratching the sores, which can be itchy, spreads impetigo to other parts of the body and to other people.

An antibiotic ointment, and sometimes an oral antibiotic, can treat it.

Kawasaki Disease

This childhood illness inflames the blood vessels. It is very rare, and the cause is unknown. Boys under age 5 of Asian or Pacific Island descent are most likely to get it. Most get well within weeks. But if it affects the arteries to the heart, it can cause serious problems.

Symptoms:

  • Fever that lasts 5 or more days
  • Red eyes, red lips, and redness on the hands and feet
  • Rash
  • Swollen lymph nodes

There is no way to prevent this disease, but it is not contagious. Early treatment is key.

Reye’s Syndrome

This very rare illness can come on suddenly. Children under age 15 who are getting over a viral illness like chickenpox or the flu are most likely to get it. It can be serious and cause damage to the liver and brain.

Symptoms:

  • Vomiting
  • Lack of energy
  • Irritability or aggression 

Later…

  • Irrational behavior
  • Confusion
  • Seizures

The best way to treat Reye's syndrome is to prevent it. It is strongly linked to aspirin, so never give your child or teen aspirin, especially for a viral illness.

If you suspect your child has it, get medical help right away.

Whooping Cough (Pertussis)

Anyone can catch this bacterial infection of the lungs and breathing tubes, but infants are the most likely to get seriously ill from it.

Symptoms:

  • Cold-like symptoms

A few days later…

  • The cough gets worse, and a “whooping” sound may be heard as child gasps for air.

Antibiotics can sometimes help by easing the symptoms, if treated early. Babies are often hospitalized so staff can monitor their breathing.

It is very easy to catch. Your baby should start getting vaccines at 2 months old. Parents and older children need to get vaccinated to protect the baby. A woman should also get a pertussis shot every time she is pregnant.

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Reviewed on January 23, 2014

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