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9 Childhood Illnesses: Get the Facts


Croup inflames the lining of the windpipe and voice box. It is most often caused by viruses, and lasts for a week or less.


  • Runny nose
  • Fever
  • Other cold-like symptoms

A few days later…

  • Hoarseness
  • Barking cough that gets worse at night

Run a hot shower, and sit with your child in the steamed-up bathroom for 10 minutes. "Breathing in moist air is always good," Edwards says.

If your child is having trouble breathing, having noisy breathing, or not eating or drinking well, call the doctor. Steroids are sometimes given to decrease airway swelling.

Scarlet Fever

This bacterial infection was once a deadly disease, but now it’s easily treatable.


  • Sore throat
  • Itchy, scarlet-colored rash around the neck and face that may spread to the rest of the body.

If your child has a sore throat and rash, call the doctor. It is important to treat it with a round of antibiotics to prevent rare but serious complications.


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.


  • 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.


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

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