Tag: Symptoms

30 Uncommon Diseases Parents Should Learn to Recognize

Did you know that just because your younger child is pulling at their ears, it doesn’t automatically mean that they have an ear infection?

It could be teething, an over-tired infant or toddler, or a kid with a cold and their ears are popping because of congestion.

Understanding common, and some not so common symptoms of pediatric diseases can help make sure that your kids get diagnosed and treated quickly.

Symptoms of Classic Pediatric Diseases

Most parents are familiar with the more classic pediatric diseases and the signs and symptoms that accompany them, such as:

  • Appendicitis – classically, it starts with pain near the belly button, which quickly worsens and moves to the lower right side of your child’s abdomen. Appendicitis is not always classic though
  • Croup – often starts in the middle of the night with a seal bark cough, heavy breathing that sounds like wheezing, and a hoarse voice
  • Diabetes – type 1 diabetes is classically associated with polydipsia (drinking a lot), polyuria (frequently urinating large amounts), and weight loss
  • Ear infection – in addition to ear pain, fussiness, or tugging at their ears, kids with an ear infection will usually have cold symptoms, or at least might have had a recent cold, with a cough and runny nose
  • Fifth disease – red cheeks that appear to be slapped followed by a pink lacy rash on a child’s arms and legs that can linger for weeks
  • Hand, foot, and mouth disease – caused by the coxsackievirus A16 virus, kids with HFMD classically have ulcers in their mouth and little red blisters on their hands and feet. They might also have a fever and a rash on their buttocks and legs.
  • Hives – hives or whelps are raised, red or pink areas on your child’s skin that come and go, moving around over a period of three to four hours and are a sign of an allergic reaction. Unfortunately, unless your child is taking medicine or just eat something, it can be hard to find the allergic trigger. You often don’t need to though, as hives can also just be triggered by viral infections and might not come back.
  • Impetigo – honey colored crusted areas on your child’s skin that are a sign of a bacterial infection
  • Ringworm – a fungal infection that can appear on a child’s skin (tinea corporis), feet (tinea pedis), groin (tinea cruris), nails (tinea unguium), or scalp (tinea capitis)
  • Roseola – another viral infection, this one is caused by human herpesvirus 6 (HHV-6) and 7 and causes a high fever for three or four days, and then, as the fever breaks, your child breaks out in a pinkish rash. The rash starts on their trunk, spreads to their arms and legs, and is gone in a few days.
  • Swimmer’s ear – the tricky part about recognizing swimmer’s ear is that you can get it anytime you get water in your ear, not just after swimming, leading to pain of the outer ear, especially when you push or tug on it.

Symptoms of Uncommon Pediatric Diseases

Although not necessarily rare, it is often uncommon for the average parent, and some pediatricians, to be familiar with all of the following conditions unless they have already been affected by them.

Having dark, brown or Coca Cola-colored urine is a classic sign of acute post streptococcal glomerulonephritis.
Having dark, brown or Coca Cola-colored urine is a classic sign of acute post streptococcal glomerulonephritis. Photo by Vincent Iannelli, MD

Why should you know about them?

Some are medical emergencies. Missing them could lead to a delay in seeking treatment.

Others, while they might not be emergencies, often lead parents to seek treatment, but it might not necessarily be the right treatment if someone doesn’t recognize what is truly going on with your child.

  1. Acanthosis nigricans – dark thickened (velvety textured) skin often found on the back of an overweight teen’s neck, and sometimes in their armpits and other skin folds, and which can be a sign of type 2 diabetes
  2. Anaphylaxis – while a severe allergic reaction like anaphylaxis is not easy to miss, getting proper treatment is sometimes difficult. This life-threatening reaction requires an epinephrine injection as soon as possible, something that some parents and even some emergency rooms seem hesitant to do.
  3. Bell’s Palsy – children with Bell’s palsy develop a sudden weakness or paralysis of the muscles of one side of their face. Fortunately, the symptoms usually begin to resolve in a few weeks.
  4. Breath holding spells – a young child having a breath holding spell will actually pass out! While it sounds scary, since they follow a typical pattern, either the child is crying forcibly (cyanotic breath holding spell) or something painful happened suddenly (pallid breath holding spell), and they quickly wake up and are fine, you hopefully won’t panic if you ever see one.
  5. Cat scratch disease – after a bite or scratch from an infected cat or kitten, a child will develop a few lesions at the scratch site, but will also develop enlarged lymph nodes nearby – typically their armpit or neck if they were scratched on the arm.
  6. Cyclic vomiting syndrome – possibly related to migraines, children with cyclic vomiting syndrome have repeated episodes of intense nausea and vomiting, sometimes leading to dehydration, every few weeks or months
  7. Diabetes insipidus – like type 1 diabetes, kids with diabetes insipidus urinate a lot and drink a lot, but it has nothing to do with their blood sugar. It can follow a head injury or problem with their kidneys.
  8. Encopresis – kids with encopresis have soiling accidents, sometimes leading parents to think that they have diarrhea. Instead, they are severely constipated and have small amounts of liquidy stool  involuntarily leaking into their underwear after getting passed large amounts of impacted stool.
  9. Erythema multiforme minor – triggered by infections and sometimes medications, kids with EM have a rash that looks like hives, but instead of going away, they just keep getting more spots, some of which look like target lesions. The severe form of EM, erythema multiforme major is fortunately rare.
  10. Geographic tongue – a curiosity more than a condition, children with geographic tongue have bald areas on their tongue where the papilla have been lost (temporarily). The name comes from the fact that the shapes of the bald areas vary in size and shape and they move around. They are not painful, although parents typically don’t notice them until they look in their child’s mouth when they complain of a sore throat or other problem.
  11. Henoch-Schonlein Purpura (HSP) – episodes of HSP typically follow an upper respiratory tract infection, when kids develop a rash (palpable pururpa), stomach aches, arthritis (joint swelling and pain), and more rarely, kidney problems. The rash is distinctive – red dots (petechiae) and a hive-like rash that looks like bruises.
  12. Hemolytic Uremic Syndrome (HUS) – follows a diarrheal illness with E. coli, in which toxin from the bacteria causes bleeding (from low platelets) and anemia (destruction of red blood cells) and can lead to kidney damage.
  13. Intussusception – colicky abdominal pain (severe pain that comes and goes) and loose stools that are filled with blood and mucous (red currant jelly stools) in young kids, typically between the ages of three months and three years
  14. Kawasaki disease – it is important to recognize when a child might have Kawasaki disease, because early treatment might help prevent serious heart complications from developing. The initial signs and symptoms of Kawasaki disease can include a prolonged fever (more than five days), swollen lymph glands, pink eye (without discharge), rash, strawberry tongue, irritability, swelling of hands and feet, red and cracked lips, and as the fever goes away, skin peeling.
  15. Nephrotic syndrome – kids with nephrotic syndrome have swelling (edema), around their eyes, on their legs, and even their belly. All of the swelling causes them to quickly gain weight. Because, at first, the swelling is worse in the morning and gets better as your child is up and about, it might be mistaken for other things that cause swelling, like eye allergies. Nephrotic syndrome won’t get better with eye drops though.
  16. Night terrors – most common in preschoolers and younger school age children, kids with night terrors ‘wake up’ in the early part of the night screaming and are confused and impossible to console, because they are really still asleep. The episodes are not remembered the next morning and are often triggered when kids are off their schedule or under extra stress.
  17. Nursemaid’s elbow – you are walking with your toddler and all of a sudden he gets mad, drops to the ground while you are holding his hand, and then he refuses to move his arm or bend his elbow. Did you break his arm? It’s probably a radial head subluxation, which your pediatrician can usually easily reduce.
  18. Obstructive sleep apnea – although many kids might snore normally, with obstructive sleep apnea, the snoring will be loud, with pauses, gasps, and snorts that might wake your child up or at least disturb their sleep.
  19. PANDAS – Pediatric Autoimmune Neuropsychiatric Disorders Associated with Streptococcal Infections is characterized by OCD and/or tics that appear or suddenly worsen after a strep infection.
  20. Peritonsillar abscess – a complication of tonsillitis, it can cause fever, severe throat pain, drooling, a muffled voice (hot potato voice), and swelling on the side of one tonsil, pushing the uvula towards the other side
  21. Pica – while many younger kids put things in their mouth, kids with pica crave and eat all of those non-food things. Since it can be a sign of iron-deficiency, talk to your pediatrician if you think that your child might have pica.
  22. Pityriasis rosea – kids with pityriasis rosea have a rash that starts with a herald patch (looks like a ringworm) and is then followed by a lot of small, oval shaped red or pink patches with scale on their trunk. The rash, which may be a little itchy, can last for up to 6-12 weeks.
  23. POTS – teens with Postural Orthostatic Tachycardia Syndrome have dizziness, fatigue, headaches, nausea, difficulty concentrating and other symptoms related to alterations or dysfunction in the autonomic nervous system (dysautonomia).
  24. Pyloric stenosis – since so many infants spit up, it is not uncommon for the parents and pediatricians to sometimes delay thinking about pyloric stenosis when a baby has it. Unlike reflux or a stomach virus, with pyloric stenosis, because their pylorus muscle becomes enlarged, no food or liquid is able to leave their stomach and they eventually have projectile vomiting of everything they try to eat or drink. It is most common in babies who are about three to five weeks old.
  25. Scalded skin syndrome – unlike typical bacterial skin infections, with scalded skin syndrome, exotoxins that certain Staphylococcus aureus bacteria cause the skin to blister and appear burned, with eventual skin peeling
  26. Stevens-Johnson Syndrome – a rare skin reaction that can be triggered by medications, beginning with flu like symptoms, but then progressing to a blistering rash that includes their mouth and eyes.
  27. Testicular torsion – if one of the testicles twists around the spermatic cord, it can cut off blood flow and quickly lead to permanent damage. Sudden, severe pain and swelling often make it easy to recognize this medical emergency, but sometimes the pain comes on more slowly or the pain is dismissed as happening from trauma, epididymitis, or torsion of the appendix testis.
  28. Toxic synovitis – typically following a viral infection, kids with toxic synovitis have hip pain and limping for a few days, but otherwise seem well, without high fever or other symptoms
  29. Vocal cord dysfunction – often misdiagnosed as asthma, especially exercise induced asthma, and other things, kids with vocal cord dysfunction often have episodes of repeated shortness of breath, chest tightness, wheezing, and coughing – just like asthma. They don’t improve though, even as more asthma medicines are added, which should be a red flag that they don’t have asthma and could have vocal cord dysfunction instead.
  30. Volvulus – a volvulus occurs when the intestines twists on itself, cutting off blood blow. In addition to severe abdominal pain, these kids often having vomiting – typically of a green, bile looking material (bilious vomiting). Green vomitus can also be a sign of other intestinal obstructions, but all would be a medical emergency.

Is knowing about these conditions always helpful?

No, especially if you don’t know what a ‘seal bark’ or ‘hot potato voice’ sounds like or what ‘red currant jelly’ looks like, but it likely shouldn’t hurt to get a little more educated about the diseases that could be causing your child’s symptoms.

What to Know About Recognizing Symptoms of Pediatric Disease

Having the internet and access to Google doesn’t make you a doctor. Get real medical advice if you think that your child is sick and has symptoms that have you concerned. It does help to know which symptoms to be concerned about though.

More on Recognizing Symptoms of Pediatric Disease

 

What to Know About Fifth Disease

Fifth disease, also called erythema infectiosum, is a very common viral infection that most kids get in early childhood.

It got its name because it was the fifth disease that was known to cause a fever and rash.

Measles was the first.

Symptoms of Fifth Disease

Fifth disease can cause a child to look like they have slapped cheeks.
Fifth disease can cause a child to look like they have slapped cheeks. Photo by Dr. Philip S. Brachman

It is caused by parvovirus B19.

Symptoms start with a red rash on your child’s cheek, giving them the appearance that they have been slapped. And that’s where fifth disease’s other name comes from – slapped cheek disease.

This slapped cheek rash is often subtle, so that many parents might think that the rash is from the sun or wind. They often don’t even consider that their child might be ‘sick’ until a few days later, when they get a pink, lacy rash on their arms and legs. Even then, they might mistake the rash for hives, poison ivy, or any number of other common childhood rashes.

Diagnosis of Fifth Disease

Unless you understand that the fifth rash can come and go, being more obvious when your child is overheated, it can be easy to see why it isn’t quickly recognized by some people. It can also be confusing because the rash could also appear on a child’s back, chest, and leg – it doesn’t have to be limited to the cheeks and arms.

And the rash, which can be itchy, can linger for weeks or even months.

While a blood test can be done, it is this pattern of symptoms that makes the diagnosis.

Most importantly, understand that fifth disease eventually does goes away without treatment. While not usually necessary, anti-itch treatments may be tried.

Can your kids go to school with fifth disease?

Fortunately, kids are not contagious while they have this rash, so they can go to school and participate in other activities. You might need a note from your pediatrician to convince folks though. They were contagious during the week before they developed the rash though, so it can be a good idea to tell people, so they can look for symptoms too.

Facts About Fifth Disease

Other things to know about fifth disease include that:

  • Fifth disease is caused by the parvovirus B19 virus and is most common during the spring and school outbreaks are no uncommon.
  • The incubation period for fifth disease is very long – up to 4 to 21 days. That means you can get this virus about 4 to 21 days after being exposed to someone else that had it, especially if you were exposed to their respiratory secretions (coughing and sneezing) just before they developed their rash.
  • Prodromal symptoms of fifth disease, which can start 7 to 10 days before the rash, might include a few days of mild fever, muscle aches, headache and decreased activity.
  • In addition to a rash, adults with fifth disease can also have joint pain and arthritis.

It is also important to know that like roseola, fifth disease can be more serious for those with immune system problems. It can also be serious for pregnant women who aren’t immune and for those with hemolytic anemia and sickle cell disease.

What to Know About Fifth Disease

Fifth disease is a very common viral infection that causes a characteristic rash on a child’s cheeks, arms, and legs that can linger for weeks.

More Information About Fifth Disease

Rotavirus Vaccines and Infections

Rotavirus is a now vaccine-preventable disease that can cause vomiting and diarrhea in young children.

While rotavirus isn’t the only cause of diarrhea in children, it was once the most common cause of severe diarrhea in young children.

Norovirus, several bacteria (Salmonella and Shigella), parasites, and other organisms still cause gastroenteritis (stomach flu) in children, but we don’t see rotavirus as much anymore. The National Respiratory and Enteric Virus Surveillance System (NREVSS) now reports low levels of rotavirus infection each year, with only about 5% of rotavirus tests now being positive during the peak of rotavirus season vs over 25% in the pre-vaccine era.

Rotavirus Infections

Children can develop symptoms of rotavirus symptoms about 1 to 3 days after being exposed to someone else who is sick with a rotavirus infections (the incubation period). These symptoms could include vomiting, watery diarrhea (without blood or mucus), fever, and abdominal pain. Although the fever and vomiting typically only last a few days, the diarrhea can often last at least 3 to 8 days or longer.

A rapid antigen stool test is available to test for rotavirus, but the diagnosis a typically made clinically, which means without testing and based on your child’s symptoms, especially if rotavirus infections are going around in your community.

Of course getting diagnosed with rotavirus is much less likely these days, now that we have a safe and effective vaccine.

While rotavirus was once the most common cause of severe diarrhea in children, leading to about 3 million cases of diarrhea, 55,000 hospitalizations, and 20 to 40 deaths in the United States each year, that has been greatly reduced in the post-vaccine era.

During the 2007-2008 rotavirus season, rotavirus activity decreased by more than 50% as compared to the 15 previous rotavirus seasons from 1991 to 2006. And during the 2010 to 2012 seasons, “the number of positive rotavirus tests declined 74%-90% compared with the pre-vaccine baseline and the total number of tests performed annually declined 28%-36%.”

Rotavirus Vaccines

The first rotavirus vaccine, Rotashield was quickly taken off the market in 1999 after it was found to be associated with an increased risk of intussusception, a type of bowel obstruction.

Newer rotavirus vaccines include:

  • RotaTeq – approved in 2006 and given to infants as a 3 dose vaccine series, it provides protection against five common strains of rotavirus, including serotypes G1, G2, G3, G4 and P1
  • Rotarix – approved in 2008 and given to infants as a 2 dose vaccine series, it provides protection against the most strain of rotavirus that most commonly gets kids sick

Both are live vaccines that are given orally and are thought to provide protection for at least two to three rotavirus seasons.

How good is that protection?

Completing either series of vaccines has been found to provide up to 98% protection against severe rotavirus gastroenteritis and up to 87% against any rotavirus gastroenteritis.

Infants should not get a rotavirus vaccine if they have had a severe allergic to a previous dose of the vaccine, to latex, if they have a history of intussusception, or if they have severe combined immunodeficiency (SCID).

They can usually get the rotavirus vaccine if they simply have some chronic stomach issues, like acid reflux or a milk intolerance, or if someone in the house has a problem with their immune system (just wash your hands after diaper changes). An immune system problem that is not SCID, an episode of acute, moderate or severe gastroenteritis, or other acute illness would be considered precautions to getting the rotavirus vaccine.

What To Know About Rotavirus

Rotavirus is a life-threatening disease that was once very common in childhood but can now be easily prevented with either the RotaTeq or Rotarix vaccines.

 

Sources:

American Academy of Pediatrics. Rotavirus infections. In:Pickering LK, Baker CJ, Long SS, eds. RedBook: 2015 Report of the Committee on Infectious Diseases. 30th ed. Elk Grove Village, IL: American Academy of Pediatrics, 2015

Gershon: Krugman’s Infectious Diseases of Children, 11th ed.

Live attenuated human rotavirus vaccine, Rotarix. Bernstein DI – Semin Pediatr Infect Dis – 01-OCT-2006; 17(4): 188-94.

Outbreaks of Acute Gastroenteritis Transmitted by Person-to-Person Contact, Environmental Contamination, and Unknown Modes of Transmission — United States, 2009–2013. MMWR. December 11, 2015 / 64(SS12);1-16

Tate JE et al. Trends in national rotavirus activity before and after introduction of rotavirus vaccine into the national immunization program in the United States, 2000 to 2012. Pediatr Infect Dis J. 2013;32(7):741-744.