Healthy Children & Teens
There is nothing worse than a sick child. Sometimes it is difficult to work out exactly why they are sick.
The most common childhood diseases are:
Measles is a highly infectious disease caused by a virus of the genus Morbillivirus of the family Paramyxoviridae. Typically measles is characterised by fever, sore throat, cough, runny nose, itchy eyes, as well as a generalised red rash.
The disease can however be severe and cause fatalities or permanent disability. Possible complications include middle ear infection, pneumonia, and encephalitis- a severe infection of the brain.
Measles is transmitted mainly by inhalation of airborne droplets produced when infected people cough. After infection with the measles virus people usually become unwell within 10-14 days. A rash usually develops by day 14 after infection and lasts a week. People are able to transmit the measles virus from one day before they become unwell (usually 4 days before the rash appears) to 4 days after they develop rash.
Children should be excluded from school and a child care facility for at least 4 days after rash appears.
The measles vaccine is given as part of the standard vaccination schedule at 12 months and four years of age.
Mumps is cause by a paramyxovirus. Infection with the virus causes fever,headache and inflammation of theparotid glands. It is mainly a childhood disease with a peak incidence aged 5-9 years.
Mumps was common prior to the introduction of vaccination, and was was a relatinely common cause of viral meningitis. Nerve deafness is one of the most serious, but rare side complications of the disease.
Spread of infection is by direct contact with droplets from the sneeze or cough, or by direct contact with saliva from an infected person. The incubation period ranges from 12-25 days but is usually 16018 days. The infectious period is up to six days before swelling of the glands and up to nine days after onset of swelling. There is a measles-mumps-rubella vaccine available and is given as part of the standard vaccination schedule at 12 months and 10-16 years.
Children should be excluded from child care centres for nine days after onset of swelling.
Rubella (German Measles):
Caused by a virus, symptoms of rubella take between 14 and 23 days after infection to show. The virus is spread from person to person through droplets in the air.
Symptoms are generally mild and may include a rash, Swollen lymph glands and joint pain. Complications are rare and include encephalitisand low levels of white cells and platelets in blood.
Becoming infected with German Measles in the first 8-10 weeks of pregnancy can cause abnormalities in the developing baby. These can be sever and include deafness, blindness, heart defects and mental retardation.
The excluded period for cases of rubella is at least 4 days after onset of rash and until fully recovered.
Chicken Pox (also called Varicella) is an acute infection caused by a virus known as the varicella-zoster virus. For the majority of children, chickenpox is a mild illness of short duration with complete recovery.
If a woman develops chicken pox during pregnancy there is a very small but real chance of damage to her unborn baby. If she develops chickenpox late in pregnancy or very soon after birth or very soon after birth the infection can be serious and even life threatening for the new born baby.
Chickenpox usually begins with a slight fever, headache runny nose and cough. A day or two later a rash begins, starting as small pink blotches but rapidly progressing to blisters which usually last three to four days before drying out and turning into scabs
The chickenpox virus is spread through coughs and sneezes and through direct contact with the fluid in the blisters of the rash. The dry scabs are not infectious. Since shingles blisters also contain the virus, a person who has never had chickenpox can become infected with chickenpox from someone who has shingles.
The usual time between contact with the virus and the development of the illness is about 14-16 days although sometimes it can take longer. A person with chickenpox is infectious to about one or two days before onset of the rash and until the blisters have all scabbed, usually four to five days.
It is important to try to prevent a young child from scratching the rash as permanent scarring ot secondary infection can occur. Frequent baths, to which an anti itch solution has been added, can reduce the itchiness. Paracetamol can be used to reduce discomfort. Aspirin must not be given to young children and adolescents due to risk of developing a severe condition called Reyes Syndrome.
Varicella vaccine has been shown to be effective in preventing chickenpox if given within three days and possibly up to 5 days of contact with an infected person. The varicella vaccine is provided free for all children aged 18 months and for children aged 13 years who have no prior history of chickenpox or vaccination.
Slapped Face Syndrome:
Slapped Face syndrome is a relatively common viral infection recognised by a bright red face.
It is caused by the virus parvovirus B19. It is spread from person to person by droplets travelling through the air from nose or mouth of an infected person .
The incubation period is from 4 to 21 days. It is highly infectious until rash appears. It usually appears in young pre- school aged children but can occur in adults. It is characterised by a bright rash mainly on face arms and legs, feeling vaguely unwell,mild fever, pain in joints and enlarges lymph glands in the neck. The rash only lasts for2-3 days but may reappear on and off for several weeks.
Treatment is supportive and symptomatic. Drink plenty of fluids, take paracetamol for fever and if itchy use an anti itch lotion. Wear a hat when in the sun.
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