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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.

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.

7. Kawasaki Disease

Kawasaki disease is a very rare childhood illness with no known cause. It is a peculiar combination of symptoms including a high fever, rash, red palms and soles of the feet, swollen hands and feet, bloodshot eyes, swollen lymph glands, and chapped lips. The disease can cause the vessels of the heart to become inflamed, damaging the heart. In the hospital, doctors treat Kawasaki disease with high doses of drugs that boost the body's immune response. Most children recover with treatment, but the disease is sometimes fatal.

A doctor named Tomisaku Kawasaki first discovered the disease in Japan in the 1960s. It's still most common in Japan, but each year in the U.S., hospitals admit about 4,000 children suffering from Kawasaki disease. Most of them are children younger than age 5.

Whatever makes these children sick has eluded researchers for decades. But an idea that has some traction among scientists, Brady says, is that an infection, maybe a virus, triggers this reaction in children who have a certain genetic trait.

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