Douglas, 4, who attends home school groups, suddenly developed a cough, conjunctivitis and a rash after going to a few group activities with other children. He was recently diagnosed by a doctor with measles.
Lisa, 3, was taken to the pediatrician with a fever, headache, rash and sore throat. The rash started with many small red bumps that looked like insect bites. The diagnosis was chickenpox.
Both Douglas and Lisa were unvaccinated and developed measles and chickenpox.
According to Florida law, it requires all children receive vaccines protecting against diphtheria, tetanus, polio, measles, mumps, rubella and other diseases for child care center or school attendance.
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Measles, also called rubeola, is an acute childhood viral infection that is almost always prevented with a vaccine.
It can be very serious and fatal for small children.
Due to high vaccination rates, measles haven’t been widespread in the United States for many years.
Usually, the rash appears 14 days after a person is exposed. The rash can spread from head to toe. Some patients are contagious several days before or after the appearance of a rash.
Measles can be dangerous, especially for babies and young children.
One out of every 1,000 measles cases will develop acute encephalitis, which often results in permanent brain damage.
One to three out of every 1,000 children who become infected with measles will die from respiratory and neurologic complications.
CDC recommends routine childhood immunization for MMR vaccine as well as students at post-high school educational institutions.
Another common childhood viral rash that can be prevented with a vaccine is chickenpox.
Chickenpox often starts without the classic rash, but with a fever, headache, sore throat, or stomachache.
Chickenpox is an infection caused by the varicella-zoster virus.
It spreads by direct contact with the rash. Also, it can spread when a person with the chickenpox coughs or sneezes and you inhale the air droplets.
It causes an itchy rash with small, fluid-filled blisters. Chickenpox is highly contagious to people who haven’t had the disease or been vaccinated against it.
Today, a vaccine is available that protects children against chickenpox. Routine vaccination is recommended by the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC).
The chickenpox vaccine is a safe, effective way to prevent chickenpox and the possible complications.
Kids who are vaccinated against chickenpox are much less likely to develop shingles when they get older.
Usually, the disease is mild in healthy children. With severe cases, the rash can cover the entire body, and lesions may form in the mucosal surfaces.
All three stages of the chickenpox rash (red bumps, blisters, and scabs) appear on the body at the same time. If the patient has a weakened immune system, the rash may spread wider or be more severe.
Because chickenpox is so contagious, most children with an infected sibling will get it (if they haven’t already had the infection or the vaccine), showing symptoms about two weeks after the first child does.
A child who has it should stay home and rest until the rash is gone and all blisters have dried. This usually takes about one week. If you’re unsure about whether your child is ready to return to school, ask your doctor.
Most people who get the chickenpox vaccine will not get chickenpox. Kids who have had chickenpox do not need the vaccine — they usually have lifelong protection against the illness.
Doctors usually can diagnose chickenpox by looking at the telltale rash.
The vaccine is recommended for young children and unvaccinated adults who’ve never had chickenpox and are at high risk of exposure. This includes health care workers, teachers, child care employees, international travelers, military personnel, adults who live with young children and all women of childbearing age.
The chickenpox vaccine isn’t approved for everyone. Be sure to check with your doctor to see if you are eligible for the vaccine.
If there’s any doubt about the diagnosis, chickenpox can be confirmed with lab tests, including blood tests or a culture of lesion samples.
With so much misinformation out there on vaccines, you need to be armed with detailed, accurate information.
Make sure when visiting the pediatrician or family practice physician that you make a list of questions or concerns.
Susan Hammerling-Hodgers, a Member of the National Psoriasis Foundation, is a PA-C (Certified Physician Assistant) and MPAS (Master of Physician Assistant Studies) and works at Brevard Skin and Cancer at the Merritt Island, Titusville and Rockledge offices.