While vaccines have made some childhood illnesses rare, many others remain a fact of life. They range from common infections like croup to mysterious ailments like Kawasaki disease. In the following slides, you'll learn the facts about two dozen childhood illnesses. But be sure to consult your pediatrician for proper diagnosis and treatment.
RSV stands for respiratory syncytial virus, and it's the top cause of bronchiolitis (inflammation of the small airways) and pneumonia in U.S. infants. The infection begins with flu-like symptoms, including a fever, runny nose, and cough. Up to 40% of young children with their first RSV infection will develop noticeable wheezing, and up to 2% will require hospitalization. RSV tends to be milder in older kids and adults.
Young children are prone to ear infections because of their small Eustachian tubes. These tubes connect the ears to the throat, and they may get blocked when a cold causes inflammation. This traps fluid inside the middle ear, behind the eardrum, allowing germs to breed. The symptoms include fever, fussiness, and ear-pulling. Most ear infections are due to viruses and go away on their own. Childhood vaccinations help prevent infections from certain bacteria that can cause ear infections.
Glue ear refers to a buildup of fluid in the middle ear without any pain. The medical term for glue ear is otitis media with effusion or OME, and it often follows an acute ear infection. The fluid usually clears up on its own. If it lingers and threatens to interfere with a child's hearing, ear tubes may be recommended to help the fluid drain.
The hallmark of croup is a tight cough that sounds like a barking seal. The cause of the cough is inflammation in the upper airways, usually due to a virus. If breathing becomes severely impaired, hospital treatment may be needed. However, most kids get better on their own in about a week. Croup is most common in toddlers.
Hand-foot-and-mouth disease causes a fever along with blisters on the inside of the mouth, the palms of the hands, the buttocks, and the soles of the feet. In the U.S., it is usually caused by coxsackievirus A16. This virus tends to spread among children during summer and early fall. Most cases are not serious and last a week to 10 days.
Tearing, redness, itching, and crusty eyelashes are all signs of conjunctivitis, commonly called pinkeye. Often caused by the same viruses as the common cold, pinkeye spreads rapidly in schools and day care centers. Consult your pediatrician to determine whether your child needs treatment. Most cases clear up in four to seven days.
Often called "slapped cheek" disease, fifth disease causes a bright red rash on a child's face. A rash may also appear on the torso, arms, or legs. The culprit is human parvovirus B19, a virus that may cause mild cold-like symptoms before the rash is seen. Up to 20% of kids get it by age 5, and up to 60% have had it by age 19. The rash usually disappears in seven to 10 days.
Before the introduction of an effective vaccine, rotavirus was the top cause of diarrhea-related deaths in young children. The main symptoms are vomiting and watery diarrhea, which can make babies become dehydrated very quickly. There are now two rotavirus vaccines for infants, and studies indicate a dramatic drop in the number of new cases.
Kawasaki disease is a very rare and mysterious ailment that strikes children under age 5. The symptoms include a high fever, patchy rash, swelling and redness of the hands and feet, bloodshot eyes, and chapped, red lips. Without treatment, the illness can damage the heart and may be fatal. Doctors have yet to discover what causes Kawasaki disease.