Sooner or later, just about all kids come down with some ominous-sounding illness you haven't heard of before, and it scares your pants off. Yet oftentimes, these ailments may sound scary but are far less dangerous than a cold. If you're curious what curve balls you might encounter that aren't worth worrying about too much, take a look at these common health problems for kids below.
1. Pinworms. You suddenly find your child itching around his anus ... and, on closer inspection, find some staple-sized worms in the area. OMG, right? Not really.
"Pinworms are parasites that spread through the transfer of tiny eggs that a child encounters while playing then accidentally ingests by putting objects into their mouth," Sara Connolly, a pediatrician at Bundoo.com, which connects parents with doctors online. Why she's not fazed by them: "Pinworms don’t carry disease and no way reflect the hygiene of the child or the environment," she continues. "Although the itching can be distracting and uncomfortable, they are more of an inconvenience than a major health concern, and treatment usually consists of an oral prescription, taken once or twice over the course of two weeks to ensure all the eggs are gone."
2. Scarlet fever. This fever/rash combo has a horrible rap in children's books: In The Little House on the Prairie, it allegedly caused Mary Ingalls to go blind; in The Velveteen Rabbit, this disease caused a family to burn all a boy's toys, rabbit included. But today at least, it's nothing to worry about.
"It is just strep throat with a rash," says Dr. Mark Gettleman at DrGoofyGettwell.com. In addition to the fever, the rash may feel like sandpaper and typically appear in the underarm, elbow, and groin areas. Luckily a dose of antibiotics will clear this up in no time.
3. 5th disease. "Fifth disease is not a disease at all," says Connolly. "It's a temporary illness caused by a virus common in school aged children, usually identified by its characteristic rash that happens at the end of the illness -- which is lacy and begins on the face then travels down the body and onto the arms and legs."
Prior to the rash, a child may have a slight fever, headache, and mild cold symptoms. Many people experience little or no symptoms at all. "The exception to this rule are children with compromised immune systems and pregnant women, both of whom should see their doctors if they believe they have been exposed to Fifth disease," says Connolly.
4. Ringworm. Despite its name, ringworm is not caused by worms. "Rather, the infection is caused by a fungus that can affect the scalp and skin of the body," says Connolly. "It’s called ringworm because of the characteristic round and oval spots, which are smooth in the center and have a scaly red border."
Although very contagious, ringworm almost never makes people acutely ill. "The exception is when the scalp is infected and becomes hot tender and inflamed," says Connolly. "For most spots, an over the counter antifungal cream -- like for athlete’s foot -- applied two to three times a day for a week or so does the trick."
5. Hand foot mouth disease. "This is a common illness for pediatricians and ER doctors. It's a classic presentation of a rash with a low grade fever," says Dr. A.J. Cummings, president elect at Peoria Medical Society. "When you tell parents it's called hand foot mouth disease, they freak out. You have to quickly reassure them its a self-limiting disease and symptomatic relief with some minor pain medication is all that is necessary."
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6. Head lice. While no one would argue that head lice aren’t fun, in terms of illness they really aren't so bad. "A case of head lice often brings embarrassment to parents, but personal hygiene has nothing to do with an infestation," says Connolly. "Head lice do not spread disease, so parents don’t need to worry about their child becoming physically ill."
For this reason, the American Academy of Pediatrics recommends that children who have been treated with an anti-lice shampoo can return to school the following day even if all eggs have not been removed. Nonetheless, parents should carefully comb through an affected child’s hair to make sure all eggs have been removed -- because going to school with visible head lice is bound to trigger some teasing.
Has your child come down with any of these scary sounding diseases?