Common Infectious Diseases of Children

As nurses, we deal with all types of people some of which are children who have been or may be exposed to infectious diseases and need special care. Below are some of the most common infectious diseases that occur to pediatric clients as well as their signs and symptoms.

Chicken pox

This is an infection caused by varicella zoster virus. And usually lasts for 10 days. It usually appears during the first decade of a person’s life and the older the infected child is, the more severe the disease.

The patient having this disease may experience:

  • Slight or mild-flu fever may be present before a rash develops.

  • Rash which usually first appears on body, face, and scalp. It then spreads to arms and limbs.

  • Rash that begins as small, red, flat spots that develop into itchy fluid-filled blisters.

  • Blisters are usually less than ¼” wide and have a red base.

  • After the blister breaks, open sores will crust over to form dry, brown scabs.

Chickenpox is highly contagious from a few days before the disease breaks out up until the last blister has caked over, which usually occurs within a week of the first spots appearing.


Whooping cough (Pertussis)

    This is caused by Bordetella pertussis and can cause serious illness in adult, children and infant patients.

The patient with this condition may experience:

  • Runny nose, low grade fever, and mild cough

  • After 1 – 2 weeks, the cough worsens

  • Child will cough violently and rapidly, over and over, until no air is left in their lungs. Child will then inhale with characteristic “whooping” sound

  • Child will sometimes vomit after coughing

  • Coughing will last for several weeks (will usually start to decrease after about 6 weeks)

This disease is particularly contagious during the first week, while the child still has a trace of a cold and may wear or from five to seven weeks.


Erythema infectiosum (Fifth Disease)

This is caused by Parvovirus B19 and is also known as the “slapped cheek” syndrome. It can last up to 14 days and usually happens in children between the ages of 4 and 12.

The patient experiencing this disease may experience:

  • Flu-like symptoms such as runny nose, sore throat, mild body weakness and joint pain, fever for about 7 days before onset of rash

  • Raised, red rash that first appears on child’s cheeks

  • The lace-like rash spreads to the rest of the body after 1 – 4 days, first on torso and arms, and then on to the rest of the child’s body

  • After the rash fades, it may continue to re-appear for 1 – 3 weeks when child is exposed to sunlight or heat, for example when bathing.

This disease can be transmitted from a pregnant woman to her unborn baby. The baby can get severe anemia that can later on result to congestive heart failure.


Hand, foot and mouth disease

This condition can be due to coxsackie virus or a a number of different enteroviruses and usually arise largely in the summer and early fall. It is most common in children under 10 years of age.

Patients with this condition may experience the following suddenly:

  • Fever (which is usually 39 degrees Celsius) for a few days

  • Sore throat

  • Headache

  • Small painful blisters inside the mouth on tongue and gums (last 4 to 6 days)

  • Blisters may appear on the palms of child’s hands, on their fingers, and on the soles of their feet for 7 to 10 days

The disease is communicable as long as blisters or spots still appear. Once the rash has vanished the child is considered well enough.

Other infectious diseases not mentioned are mumps, roseola infantum, meningococcal meningitis, measles and many more.


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