Parent's guide to childhood illnesses

Parent's guide to childhood illnesses

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Find out the symptoms, causes and treatments for chicken pox, croup, ear infections, roseola and scarlet fever.

Scarlet Fever

Cause: Scarlet fever is associated with infection caused by a bacteria called beta hemolytic streptococci, and typically appears a few days after the child has been exposed to someone with strep throat. 

Symptoms: Scarlet fever is characterized by a sore throat, chills, fever, headache and vomiting, and the child looks pale. The tongue is usually heavily coated as well, but will later emerge red and shiny looking. The pinkish-red rash of scarlet fever first appears on the neck or chest but spreads quickly over the entire body (the face excepted). The illness lasts between four to 10 days.  

Treatment: Penicillin or other antibiotics are effective against this bacteria and medical attention should be sought. Sore throat, headache and fever may be treated with over-the-counter children's pain relievers. 


Cause: Roseola is caused by a specific type of the herpes virus, and affects infants or very young children between six months and three years of age. 

Symptoms: Typically, children develop a high fever for three to four days, then, as the fever drops, a rash develops predominately on the chest and abdomen. The rash lasts anywhere from a few hours to two days. During this stage, temperature is normal, and the child feels and acts well.  

Treatment: Children's TYLENOL® (acetaminophen) is good symptomatic treatment for high fever, because of its balance of safety and efficacy in the relief of children's fever and pain. 


Cause: Croup is usually triggered by different upper respiratory viral infections, which cause airways to become inflamed and narrow. It primarily affects children aged six months to three years and the viruses are spread via contaminated droplets in the air, or other contaminated secretions. 

Symptoms: Usually, symptoms similar to those of a minor cold come first. Symptoms of croup commonly come on suddenly, usually at night; and the child often wakes up with a hoarse or bark-like cough, gasping for breath. Fever is not usually present. 

Treatment: Bathroom steam often helps with a sudden attack of croup. Close the bathroom door, open the window and turn on the hot water in the tub or shower full blast. Once the bathroom steams up, stay with your child until the cough and noisy breathing subsides. Or, try taking the child outside in the cool night air for 15 minutes. Crying magnifies the symptoms of croup so try to comfort the child. If croupiness does not subside within 10–15 minutes of this therapy, contact your doctor. 

Middle Ear Infection (Otitis media)

Cause: Otitis media often follows a cold and may be caused by either bacteria or a virus. 

Symptoms: Sudden ear pain, sometimes severe, often starting at night, waking children up.  Children may hold their ears when the ear is painful. In older children, the infection may develop more gradually over the course of a day. Fever, loss of appetite, vomiting and diarrhea may be present, especially in young children.  

Treatment: Antibiotics are used to resolve the infection. Children's TYLENOL® or Children's TYLENOL® Decongestant will relieve ear pain and reduce fever while the infection clears. Children’s MOTRIN® (ibuprofen) provides long-lasting pain relief and is available in a suspension liquid, and chewables.  

Chicken Pox

Cause: Chicken pox is caused by the varicella-zoster virus, which is mainly transmitted directly from person to person via airborne droplets when people sneeze or cough. 

Symptoms: It usually starts with a slight to moderate fever, feeling ill and a loss of appetite. This is followed by itchy flat red spots that turn into pimples, then blister, crust and scab. New bumps will continue to develop for 3 to 4 days, and scabs can last up to 20 days. 

Treatment: Increase fluids, dress the child in light clothing and keep the room cool. A soothing tepid bath at body temperature or a bath of colloidal oatmeal may help relieve itching, as can calamine lotion. Keep fingernails short and clean so that the rash doesn't become infected when children scratch.

Source(s)- © McNeil Consumer Healthcare, division of Johnson & Johnson Inc. 2007