10 Kid Diseases and Conditions Adults Can Catch Too

10 Kid Diseases and Conditions Adults Can Catch Too

What ‘kid diseases’ do parents of sweet, germ-infested children need to watch out for?

By: Marisa Torrieri Bloom

In warmer months, your 2-year-old may be at greater risk for hand, foot, and mouth disease -- especially if a few of his buddies at swim class or day care catch it. But while some illnesses, like croup, only manifest as mild ailments in adults, others can put a grown-up out for days or weeks.

“Adults forget that there is a chance they can still get chicken pox or whooping cough,” says Dr. Scott Krugman, MD, the chairman of the Department of Pediatrics and director of medical education at MedStar Franklin Square Medical Center in Baltimore, Maryland.

With that in mind, here are the 10 most common illnesses -- some dangerous, some less so -- that adults can catch from their children, and what you should look out for. As always, consult your doctor if there’s any question about these symptoms.

1. Fifth disease, or “slapped cheek syndrome”: In kids, fifth disease starts out with a fever, runny nose, or rash on the cheeks and before you know it, there’s a red, intricate rash on the whole body. In adults, symptoms are similar but the disease can have a worse effect on pregnant women and can even cause miscarriage or severe neonatal complications in pregnant women, says Krugman. It’s transmissible via saliva, mucus, and blood, too, so be sure to wash your hands with soap and warm water.

2. Whooping cough (pertussis): Whooping cough is a highly contagious respiratory tract infection your kids have probably been vaccinated for. It’s a good thing, too. Whooping cough rears its ugly head with intense cold symptoms (dry cough, runny nose, watery eyes, etc.) that can be severe or even fatal. And in adults, it can cause a prolonged cough for weeks to more than a month, says Krugman.

3. Chicken pox: While it may seem that only little kids can get chicken pox, that miserable viral infection that causes 10 days of itchy spots (lesions), adults who are not immune can often suffer worse lesions than their little ones (and pregnant women who have never had chicken pox are among those with the highest risk of infection, as are adults with compromised immune systems). The good news? Vaccinations are now standard for this one. Still, if you catch the pox, try to prevent it from spreading -- stay home from work and away from day care. Also, any clothing that’s been in contact with chicken pox blisters should go straight into the washer.

4. Methicillin-Resistant Staph Aureus (MRSA): Whole families can share and pass back and forth this common skin infection, which manifests in boils and abscesses (yuck!). And grown-ups should be especially vigilant, says Krugman, as it can also cause severe infections in kids and adults including pneumonia, bone and joint infections, and sepsis, he adds. For more on MRSA, check out the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention’s guide to MRSA.

5. The flu: You probably know that the contagious influenza affects adults and kids in the same way, causing symptoms like high fever, muscle aches, and cough -- which is why you should run out and get a flu shot if you haven’t yet! An added concern – if left untreated, the flu can progress to pneumonia. So whether it’s you or your kids, stay indoors if anyone feels flu-ish.

More from P&G everyday: 9 Ways to Keep Your Kid's Illness From Spreading to the Whole Family

6. Hand, foot, and mouth (HFM) disease: If you see sores on the hands, feet, or mouth of your little one, go see the doctor: HFM disease spreads through close contact and is most common among the under-5 set spring through fall. While there’s a myth that it’s just something kids can get during summer break, adults are certainly susceptible too, says Krugman. In the worst-case scenarios, it can cause viral meningitis, though in adults, it’s most likely to manifest as a cold and sore throat, he adds.


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7. Pinkeye: Also known as conjunctivitis, pinkeye is just what it sounds like: red, painful, or itchy eyes with goop in them (if bacterial) or without goop (if viral). If Junior comes home with this one, watch out: You could be at risk of catching it too, and symptoms are the same for both adults and children, says Krugman. Here are other tips on preventing transmission of pinkeye, if you or someone you know has it.

8. Scabies: These itchy red bumps are caused by mites that crawl under the skin. You and your little ones are at risk -- so don’t share clothing or towels with someone who’s got them. While kids’ scabies can be all over the body, adults usually get them on their hands and around the belly button, says Krugman. The good news? With treatment, scabies mites die and the itching diminishes over a few days or weeks .

9. Lice: These itchy little creatures can find their way into your child’s long hair -- but can also hop onto moms’ and dads’ heads, says Krugman. If your kid’s head is itching, the American Academy of Dermatology offers tips on recognizing lice and treating the condition.

10. Ringworm: That’s the name for those round, scaly, itchy lesions on the skin caused by fungus. But what you might not realize is that you’re at risk of catching it, too. The National Institutes of Health (NIH) offers some tips for recognizing ringworm.

What are you most afraid of catching from your kid or other children you know?

Marisa Torrieri Bloom is a freelance writer and guitar teacher who lives with her husband and two young sons in Fairfield, Connecticut.

Image ©iStock.com/OJO_Images

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