When it comes to contagious illnesses, some people are more susceptible than others to severe cases and complications. This includes pregnant women and children with underlying medical conditions.
Fifth disease The virus that causes this relatively mild illness in children can be harmful to unborn fetuses, particularly during the first trimester. It attacks their red blood cells, causing severe anemia and sometimes miscarriage. If your child is diagnosed with this condition and you're pregnant or know of any pregnant women your child may have had contact with, it's important to alert your doctor and the other pregnant women.
Chickenpox It's dangerous only if you've never had it or a vaccine. The risk is greatest during the first 10 weeks of pregnancy and can lead to a range of congenital abnormalities. Susceptible pregnant women should also avoid exposure from five days before to two days after delivery because chickenpox can be fatal for newborns.
Colds and pneumonia Respiratory illnesses take on special meaning for certain kids, namely those with asthma or congenital heart disease. These children are more susceptible to respiratory illnesses and are more likely than the average kid to become sicker from them. So if your child has one of these conditions and he attends group childcare, it's important to let the director know so she can alert you when a classmate shows respiratory symptoms.
Impetigo For kids with compromised immunity, and even for kids with skin conditions like eczema, impetigo can lead to dangerous infections. The best way to protect your child: clean any cuts or scrapes, apply antibacterial ointment, and keep the wound covered until it's completely healed.
Originally published in the October 2008 issue of American Baby magazine.
Updated February 2010
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