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9 Childhood Illnesses: Get the Facts

You may not have heard of these childhood illnesses, but they are more common than you think.

4. Croup

Croup is a childhood illness usually caused by a group of viruses called human parainfluenza viruses, which also cause the common cold. The main symptom of croup is a "barking" cough, sometimes likened to the barking sound a seal makes. Croup can be serious enough to require treatment in a hospital. Up to 6% of children with croup are hospitalized, but it is very rarely fatal. For severe cases, treatment helps to keep the sick child breathing normally until the infection ends. A case of croup typically lasts about one week.

It's estimated that six in 100 children get croup each year. Children who get it tend to be younger than 6 years old, and it's seen most frequently in 2-year-old children.

5. Scarlet Fever

Scarlet fever is a rash that sometimes appears with strep throat -- an infection with a bacterium called group A streptococcus. A child with strep throat will usually have a very sore throat and high fever. The scarlet fever rash starts on the chest and abdomen and spreads all over the body. It is bright red like sunburn and feels rough like sandpaper. The color of the rash may be deeper around the armpits. The child's tongue may have a whitish appearance, except for the taste buds, which look bright red, a symptom known as "strawberry tongue." There may be some flushing in the face, with a paler area around the mouth.

Scarlet fever was once a feared and deadly childhood illness, but it is easily cured with antibiotics. Now scarlet fever is just another kind of rash.

6. Impetigo

Impetigo is a bacterial skin infection. It's the third most common skin condition in children, seen most often in children aged 2 to 6 years. It's very contagious, and adults can get it, too.

Impetigo appears on the skin as clusters of itchy little bumps or sores that weep fluid, forming a honey-colored crust over them. Touching the fluid from the sores can spread an impetigo infection to the skin on different parts of the child's body, as well as to other people.

Prescription antibiotics are needed to clear up an impetigo infection. The sores heal without causing scars.

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