How Can You Avoid Catching Your Child’s Illness?

By Tracy Wright

When local mother Brittany Fair’s then four-year-old daughter was sent home from VPK with a high fever, she noticed the dreaded spots on her hands and feet. Fair’s daughter had contracted Hand, Foot and Mouth Disease (HFMD) or Coxsackievirus/Enterovirus. Although Fair’s daughter had caught HFMD twice before and Fair had been spared, this time she was not so lucky.

“My mouth sores multiplied rapidly and were extremely painful. I had an aching pain throughout my entire body but primarily in my hands and feet,” Fair said. “Overall, it lasted about 12 terrible days. Meanwhile my children, including my youngest who had caught the disease, were recovered in about 3 days.”

For Coxsackie virus, adults can manifest similar symptoms of the virus, but they can last longer and those infected may find it harder to bounce back from the illness than their child. HFMD is extremely contagious, and both adults and children can contract the virus multiple times.

Fair has also caught the flu, strep throat, norovirus and head lice from her young children.

“I think the hardest part was being sick while my children are also sick and struggling to take care of them when I’m also suffering. And since the kids get sick first and recover faster, they are generally fully recovered right when I’m hitting the worst of it and I have to force myself throughout the motions of the day while feeling absolutely terrible,” Fair said.

“It’s easy to feel depressed and defeated during those times and just completely and utterly overwhelmed.”

A highly contagious illness may seem harmless to children, but they can cause more serious and uncomfortable symptoms for parents and caregivers.

Some of the more common conditions that adults can contract include chicken pox (varicella), roseola, mononucleosis, pertussis (whooping cough), and Parvovirus B19 (fifth disease).

Fifth disease is also referred to as “slapped cheek syndrome” because of the frequent red rash that appears on the child’s cheeks. Fifth disease can begin in children as nasal congestion, swollen glands, low-grade fever and muscle soreness. The facial rash can spread to the torso, arms, and legs. The virus lasts about two weeks and then clears up on its own. But beware moms and dads—adults who contract this disease may have very different and more serious symptoms.

Adults with fifth disease can also develop pain and swelling in their joints. It is more common in women. Some adults with fifth disease may only have painful joints, usually in the hands, feet, or knees, and no other symptoms. The joint pain usually lasts 1 to 3 weeks, but it can last for months or longer. In some cases, fifth disease can cause serious long-term chronic anemia, and pregnant women can also spread the disease to their unborn babies.

Adults who have already had chicken pox are typically immune from contracting it again, but for those who haven’t and aren’t immunized, they should know that the common childhood illness of our youth can be extremely serious and can cause pneumonia, skin infections and meningitis. It’s also one of the most contagious of these diseases. If you’ve never had the disease, you can receive the immunization.

Whooping cough (pertussis) is a common illness in the United States, with peaks in reported disease every few years and frequent outbreaks. The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) recommends all adults get a dose of the pertussis vaccine to boost their childhood vaccination and then repeat the booster every 10 to 15 years. Pregnant women should get a booster for every pregnancy. It is especially dangerous for unvaccinated infants.

Talk to your health care provider about your entire medical history and what immunizations you may need to help boost your immunity to certain conditions.

How can you prevent the spread of these common viruses and illnesses in your home?

Hand-washing is essential:

Whenever you come into contact with mucus, secretions, vomit or stool, parents should wash their hands well with soap and water. Be sure to scrub for 20 seconds, and don’t miss the spots between your fingers, under your fingernails and under rings.

Sanitizing your entire home is not necessary:

Instead, focus on key areas of high hand traffic such as remote controls, countertops, doorknobs, railings, toys and rooms that have surfaces that are frequently touched, such as the bathroom and sick child’s bedroom. Once your child is well, throw out toothbrushes, wash bedding, clothes and toys in warm water.

Parents, TAKE NOTE!

Did you know that the CDC has a recommended adult vaccination schedule in addition to the typical pediatric recommendations? Talk to your health care provider about which vaccines are right for you.

The vaccines you need as an adult are determined by many factors including your age, lifestyle, health condition, and which vaccines you’ve received during your life. As an adult, vaccines are recommended for protection against:

• Seasonal influenza (flu)

Annually, it is recommended that everyone 6 months and older receive a flu vaccine as the best way to reduce the risk of flu.

• Pertussis, also known as whooping cough

The Tdap (tetanus, diphtheria and pertussis) vaccine is recommended for women during each pregnancy and once for all adults who have not previously received it. Boosters are recommended for adults as well.

• Tetanus and diphtheria

The TD vaccine is recommended every 10 years.

• Shingles

The herpes zoster vaccine is recommended for adults 50 years and older.

• Pneumococcal disease

Two pneumococcal vaccines are recommended for adults 65 years and older. One or both vaccines may be recommended for adults younger than 65 who have specific health conditions or who smoke cigarettes.

• Meningococcal disease, hepatitis A, hepatitis B, chickenpox, measles, mumps, and rubella (MMR)

Talk to your health care provider about your potential risks and immunization and medical history.