During the winter months, we are inclined to diagnose our children and ourselves with a cold or the flu at the drop of a hat. Feeling slightly tired? Having a bout of indigestion? That must be H3N2 … right?
Not necessarily. There are plenty of common childhood illnesses that mimic the milder symptoms of cold or flu, or don’t manifest with physical symptoms at all. So, before you chalk it all up to seasonal sickness or send your kiddo off to school because they don’t have a high-grade fever, take a moment to learn more about these common childhood illnesses.
Roseola (Sixth Disease)
This viral infection is caused by human herpes virus 6 or 7 and is spread through either saliva or respiratory droplets. Most children catch roseola by the age of two. Occasionally, an adult can pick up the virus, especially if they are immunocompromised.
Symptoms are typically mild or nonexistent, but your child may experience a spike in temperature to a fever of 103 degrees Fahrenheit or more. In rare cases, this can cause febrile seizures, which require immediate medical attention. Some children also develop a red or pink spotty rash that subsides on its own. There is no vaccine for roseola, and you recover from the illness much like you would from a cold – with plenty of sleep, healthy food, and hydrating liquids. If your child has a fever, children’s fever medication may ease their discomfort, and if the fever is high or does not go away within a few days, visit your doctor.
RSV (Respiratory Syncytial Virus)
Like roseola, RSV is a viral infection that affects most American children by the age of two. The sickness is highly contagious and can be spread through saliva, respiratory droplets or contact with a sick person or an object they’ve touched. Children in daycare or those who have an older sibling at school may be at higher risk, as most kids are contagious for three to eight days. RSV tends to spread sometime between late fall and early spring, depending on where you live in the U.S.
Symptoms of RSV are almost indistinguishable from those of the common cold and include runny nose, congestion, coughing, and low-grade fever. Some children may also develop a high-grade fever, headache, sore throat, and reduced appetite. In some children, especially infants, RSV can develop into bronchiolitis or pneumonia, making it difficult for them to breathe. Watch out for signs of a caved chest, flared nostrils or shallow breaths, as this indicates labored breathing.
Premature babies and young children with heart and lung problems or weak immune systems are especially at risk of catching RSV. Complications can be serious and should not be overlooked; RSV is the number one cause of hospitalization in infants under the age of one, and your child may require IVs or oxygen to stay healthy. If your child falls into the at-risk group, your doctor may recommend palivizumab, a medicine that can stave off severe RSV symptoms if taken before catching the virus. Unfortunately, this illness has no vaccine or cure, so symptoms must be managed with bed rest, plenty of liquids, and if desired, a fever reduction medication or saline spray to clear the nostrils.
Fifth Disease (Erythema Infectiosum)
You may know fifth disease by its other name, “slapped cheek disease,” which references the most easily identifiable symptom of the illness. The slapped cheek rash may be subtle or severe, and usually looks like a wide pink splotch on both cheeks. By the time you see the rash, your child has already exited the contagious phase, which means they can return to school. They may experience a second series of rashes elsewhere on the body, including some itchy rashes on the bottom of the feet.
Fifth disease is an infection caused by parvovirus B19, which is different than the parvo our pets can get. The virus spreads through saliva, respiratory droplets, contact or blood. It is a relatively mild illness with symptoms akin to a cold, such as a runny nose, headache, and low-grade fever. In adults, it can manifest as joint pain, and there is a much lower likelihood of adults developing the slapped cheek rash.
Fortunately, most cases of fifth disease require no unique treatment at all, other than the typical treatments you’d use for a cold. Children who have sickle cell anemia or are immunocompromised due to cancer treatment or HIV/AIDS need to seek the advice of a doctor, as fifth disease can severely impair the creation of new red blood cells. Doctors can administer immune globulin injections to introduce antibodies and strengthen the immune systems of people with these medical issues.
Receive Pediatric Services From Complete Care in Texas and Colorado
While most children will recover from roseola, RSV and fifth disease in no time, some will experience complications that can be quite harmful. If your child has any of the following symptoms, you should seek medical help right away:
- High-grade fever
- Persistent fever or rash
- Trouble breathing
- Blueish tint to lips, nails or skin
- Sunken eyes
- Severe dehydration or appetite loss
If your child is displaying worrying symptoms, the highly-qualified team of medical professionals at Complete Care can help treat and manage their symptoms. Our urgent care facilities, free-standing emergency rooms, and hospitals are all well-equipped to take care of little ones in distress. Complete Care also offers regular medical services like annual checkups at our family practice locations.
Visit one of our locations today or contact us for more information.