Childhood Infections


Measles (Rubeola) has increased its epidemic potential with the development of large city schools. Measles occurs naturally only in human beings. Usually after exposure, a child develops his first symptoms in 9-11 days. Malaise, high fever, and irritability are associated with inflammation of the eyes, tearing, a hacking cough, and nasal discharge.

One to eight days later a rash develops, with small spots on the mucous membrane of the mouth and a red rash, at times slightly elevated, breaking out over the forehead, spreading downward over the face, neck, and trunk. Each spot (lesion) persists for about three days and disappears in the same order; total duration of the rash is about six days.

Rarely complications of fluid retention or pneumonia develop; but most measles cases are self-limited, with a complete recovery conferring lifetime immunity. A vaccine is available to protect very young children, patients with tuberculosis, and others whose immune mechanisms are likely to be impaired.

Rubella (German measles) is a much more benign disease, often called the “three days measles”. After 14-21 days from exposure, there will be a mild illness for 1-7 days consisting of malaise, headache, and fever. The nonblistering rash then develops on the forehead and face, spreading downward to the trunk and extremities.

Recovery is usually complete. However, serious complications may be seen when a pregnant mother becomes infected. Within the first three months of pregnancy, the developing child is susceptible to Congenital rubella. Fetal infection at such a vulnerable period may lead to severe handicaps— heart malformation, mental retardation, or deafness.

For this reason it is important that the mother should avoid contact with anyone who might have measles during early pregnancy. She should never receive a vaccination if there is a possibility of pregnancy within the following two months.


The pox viruses are a disease producing family, including the severe contagious febrile illness (variola) commonly called smallpox. The disease involves a rash, characterized by small blisters and pustules, with an incubation period of about 12 days. There is no specific therapy for smallpox.

Primarily one attempts to prevent bacterial infection and maintain a fluid balance. The vaccinia (cowpox) virus was purified and developed for inoculation to specifically prevent smallpox. Currently, these vaccinations are no longer used, for no smallpox cases have been found in the world in at least a decade.

It is one of the few contagious diseases that science may have eradicated with strictly preventive measures. For this we thank the Lord! Individuals with immune deficiency, leukemia, or with a widespread skin rash, of course, should never be given the smallpox vaccination.

Chicken Pox and Shingles

Chicken Pox (varicella) is a contagious disease, usually seen in children. It is characterized by fever and a small blistering eruption. The same pox virus also produces herpes zoster or “shingles”, characterized by a one-sided segmental inflammation of one spinal or cranial nerve.

Painful localized blisters erupt on the skin over the distribution of the small nerve. Although chicken pox is more highly contagious, shingles is more distressing. Severe pain often lasts for weeks to months, particularly in older individuals.

Acute shingles as well as post-herpetic neuralgia may respond to fever therapy, given early in the course of the disease. Given in the form of steam bath or at home in a bathtub, specific fever treatments can thwart the infection early and prevent many complications.

Cold Sores

Herpes simplex virus, a “second cousin” of the shingles virus, is the usual cause of cold sores. These painful lesions often erupt during a fever or other illness. They may also occur during times of stress. Except for drying agents, such as camphor or the use of topical steroids, no specific treatment is available.

Other viral diseases of the skin include the foot and mouth disease of children (Coxsackie virus), warts, milker’s nodule, contracted from infected cows, and molluscum contagiosum, an infectious disease of the skin caused by the largest known viruses.

Cat scratch disease is a viral infection characterized by swelling of the regional lymph nodes, secondary to an animal scratch, usually a cat. The diagnosis is usually made from the history, with confirmation by a skin test or lymph node biopsy. The recovery is usually complete.

Infectious mononucleosis is a viral illness, and usually seen in young adults. A severe sore throat associated with a rash on the palate, enlargement of the lymph nodes and spleen, general weakness, muscle aching, and at times central nervous system symptoms are a result.

Confirmatory blood tests (the Mono spot) can pinpoint the disease with accuracy in its early stages. Specific fever therapy associated with rest, a spare diet, and other symptomatic measures can usually provide a rapid recovery.

Chronic fatigue syndrome (CFS) is a more serious and lasting complication of viral illness. Unresolved infections with the Mono virus can sometimes result in a complex syndrome of recurrent sore throat, muscle aching, swollen lymph nodes, joint pain, and profound fatigue.

Psychological disturbance results, with memory loss, difficulty concentrating, anxiety and depression. The Epstein-Barr virus is one of many organisms that can produce this syndrome. Specific serum antibody tests can evaluate this possibility. Some patients remain incapacitated for years. Crossover sensitivity to environmental toxins, fumes, industrial chemicals, and inhalant or food allergies are often seen.

I have seen many patients with CFS recover their strength and energies. The combination of a simple, low-fat diet, and gradually increasing exercise helps to boost immune defenses. Chronic viral disease yields to the benefits of fever therapy, given over a two to three week period. Depression lifts, while new energy comes into the nearly disabled invalid. There is hope for most infections, especially the chronic viral ones producing fatigue.

Mumps is an acute communicable disease, characterized by painful enlargement of the salivary glands, and more specifically of the parotid glands, just in front of the ears. Sometimes the infection involves the testicles; rarely it produces meningitis.

At times testicular involvement (orchitis) will result in lifetime sterility. There is no specific treatment, though swollen painful organs can be relieved with cold compresses while the disease runs its course and is treated at home with general measures.

Many tropical diseases, spread by mosquitoes, can be seen around the world. Eastern and western equine encephalitis, dengue, yellow fever, and hemorrhagic fevers are the more common of these. Treatment is generally symptomatic and supportive.