The Dangers of Childhood Diseases For Adults

You may have been the only two in second grade to keep away from chicken pox, but that is probably because your parents shielded you from germs the way the Secret Service shields Dick Cheney from bullets. In protecting you from the pox, they may have also been doing you a secret disservice — by preventing you from acquiring the lifelong immunity that comes with it. Now, if you get the pox or several other kids' diseases, you'll do over lie on the couch and watch reruns of The Love Boat to get over it. That is because a quantity of them can be even more insidious now that you are the two wearing the heels. Here's what you need to know about kids' conditions and how to protect yourself.

The Dangers of Childhood Diseases For Adults
Learn what to do if you get the chicken pox, measles, strep throat or whooping cough as an adult
Sharon Anne Waldrop

Chicken Pox

What is the Worry? If you didn't catch this itchy red rash as a kid, it is worse as an adult. Not only are you more liable to congestion along with a high fever and intense itching, but you are also more likely to contract pneumonia because of a weakened immune technique (or even hepatitis or encephalitis, which is an irritation and swelling of the brain that can potentially cause permanent destroy). The virus can also lie dormant in the body and resurface several years down the road as shingles, an agonizing rash of blisters.

Will You Get It? Not likely if you have had it or been vaccinated (see Immunity Is Up for Grabs, below). The vaccine works in over 90 percent of people, says Tom DeWitt, M.D., director of general pediatrics at Cincinnati Children's Hospital. Of adults who contract chicken pox, 20 percent will get pneumonia and 10 percent will get shingles. Hepatitis and encephalitis are rare.

What Do You Do? If you get it, make like a Survivor contestant: Lie around, do nothing, and drink lots of water. And, you ought to take a fever-reducer, such as Tylenol or ibuprofen, and a diphenhydramine like Benadryl to help relieve itching. Ask your doctor about newer antiviral prescription medications like acyclovir that can diminish symptoms. A calamine rub or oatmeal bath will relieve a quantity of the intense itching.

Fifth Disease

What is the Worry? In children the common virus spurs cold-like symptoms and a rash that starts on the cheeks and then spreads to the trunk, arms, and legs. (It is dubbed "fifth disease" because it was among the four classical rash-associated infections of childhood.) It is contagious (through sneezing, coughing, and touching), and there is no vaccine. If left untreated in adults, it can lead to arthritis, says Peter Katona, M.D., an associate professor at UCLA School of Medicine.

Will You Get It? If you come in contact with children, it is hard to keep away from. About 80 percent of adults with fifth disease will get mild arthritic symptoms that may linger even postvirus.

What Do You Do? You must wait out the typical 7- to 10-day infection and take aspirin or ibuprofen to relieve the joint pain, swelling, and fever. Some adults complain that the rash itches — in which case a calamine rub or an oatmeal bath again provides the best relief.

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