Common kids' diseases you may not have heard about

WILMINGTON, Delaware (WPVI) -- We've all heard of contagious diseases like measles or norovirus. But there are some common children's ailments which even parents may be unfamiliar with.

As a general pediatrician at Nemours duPont Hospital for Children, Dr. Jonathan Miller never knows what he'll see in the exam room.

He has to recognize a host of diseases in children of all ages to know if there's 'something going around.'

Dr. Miller says one of the most common among little ones is hand, foot, and mouth disease.

"That can cause fever, and sores in the mouth," he says.

Plus, a rash on palms of the hands and soles of the feet that gives the disease it's name.

The virus isn't usually serious, Tylenol or ibuprofen will make kids comfortable. But it can also cause some concern.

"When the sores are so painful, some children will stop drinking and stop eating and that can lead to dehydration," said Dr. Miller.

Hand, foot and mouth enterovirus is spread through both the respiratory (coughing, sneezing) and digestive systems.

The disease tends to be seasonal, usually in the summer months.

In the 1800s, when childhood diseases had numbers, not names, measles was First Disease, scarlet fever was second, and so on.

The only one still known by a number is Fifth Disease.

"It's known as the slap cheek rash, so kids will be really red in the cheeks," said Dr. Miller.

And they may have a rash over the rest of the body, too.

Adults don't get hand, foot, and mouth disease, but they can catch the parvovirus which causes Fifth Disease.

"It can cause joint problems like joint pain and arthritis when it affects adults," said Dr. Miller.

It can also affect pregnant women.

"Especially in the first half of pregnancy, this can be a risk to the fetus," said Dr. Miller.

Fifth Disease tends to be more of a problem in the late winter and early spring.

What used to be called Sixth Disease is now known as Roseola. Almost all kids get exposed to it, usually between 6 months and 2 years.

It usually causes a high fever for a few days without any other symptoms.

"Then as the fever gets better, the child would get a rash, usually a red rash on the chest and the back and the face," said Dr. Miller.

Here's the rub with Roseola and Fifth disease: kids are contagious, but only BEFORE the rash appears, so the virus spreads silently.

There are no vaccines for these diseases, but there is one weapon you can use to fight the spread.

"Hand hygiene is super important!" he said.

Wash your hands under warm water for at least 20 seconds and dry them thoroughly to get rid of the virus.

Dr. Miller says there are other non-virus contagious diseases which kids often get when they are playing with each other at school.

"Ringworm, which has the medical name of Tinea, is a fungal infection. Very common but not very serious," said Dr. Miller.

"You see it all the time and is sometimes the reason you see school nurses will call the parents and tell them to have their child seen by a pediatrician," he added.

It causes usually a little dry patch on the skin which is usually circular, looks almost like a ring which is why it's called ringworm.

"It is not a worm, it is a fungus, easily treated with an antifungal skin cream," said Dr. Miller.

Kids don't need to be kept out of school because of it.

Impetigo is another common skin infection.

"Impetigo is caused by staph or strep and can cause crusty, a little more nasty skin lesions in children," he said.

"They can be pretty contagious and can spread fairly quick, and so we try to identify it. Usually, antibiotic ointment is sufficient enough to stop that spread," says Dr. Miller.

For more information on common infections, see KidsHealth.org.
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