Whooping cough, ringworm, chicken pox, and strep throat are conditions most often associated with children, but that doesn't mean you automatically became immune from them as well as other childhood illnesses as soon as you become an adult. What's even worse, some childhood illnesses are much harder on adults than children.
Whooping cough: Adult symptoms aren't usually as severe as those in children, but whooping cough, also known as pertussis, is highly contagious. You may be a victim if you've had a cold with fever followed by a hacking cough that lasts for more than a week, especially a cough so violent that you felt in danger of throwing up. Even though you've been vaccinated, immunity wears off in five to 10 years, so you might want to consider getting a booster. It's easily passed to children who are much more likely to have serious complications, including death.
Chicken pox: Today's children are protected against chicken pox by a vaccine, but if you managed to avoid chicken pox as a child and get it now, you're going to have a much harder time. Congestion is more common, along with intense itching and a high fever, and older sufferers are more likely to develop pneumonia or even encephalitis — a swelling of the brain. The same virus that causes chicken pox lurks in your system's nerve cells and reemerges to cause the extremely painful rashes associated with shingles. Antiviral medications can shorten the length and severity of chicken pox. Chicken pox vaccines can protect those who have never had the disease, and shingles vaccines are often recommended for those over the age of 60.
Fifth disease: Sometimes called the "slapped cheek" disease because the red rash often resembles a slap to the cheek, it then spreads to other areas of the body, accompanied by cold-like symptoms. Fifth disease, which is so-named because it was the fifth in the list of rash-causing disease in children before the age of vaccines, is caused by a virus called human parvovirus B19. Infections aren't usually serious and go away on their own, but it's contagious and there's no vaccine. Fifth disease is associated with joint pain that normally goes away in children, but left untreated in adults can lead to arthritis. About 80 percent of adults have arthritic pain with Fifth disease that may remain even after the virus is gone.
Croup: A highly contagious disease caused by a viral infection of the upper respiratory tract, croup is becoming more frequent in adults, but it may be referred to as laryngotracheobronchitis since it affects the larynx, trachea, and bronchi.
Pink eye: It's not just kids that get pink eye — also called conjunctivitis. Pink eye is an inflammation of the outermost area (the conjunctiva) of the eye and the inner surface. Its symptomatic itchy eyes with a white, yellow, or green discharge can be caused by infection (viral or bacterial) or even by an allergic reaction. Pink eye caused by either viruses or bacteria is very contagious and spreads easily by contact.
Ringworm: Ringworm is actually a fungus characterized by raised red patches of skin that have normal-looking skin in the middle. It's caught by direct contact with an infected person, a pet, or from contaminated surfaces, usually in public places like pools. Antifungal over-the-counter treatments that contain clotrimazole or miconazole should do the trick, but if the fungus remains after a few weeks or if you find ringworm on your scalp, see your doctor.
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