Exanthematous diseases: symptoms, incubation and remedies


  • 1 Exanthematous diseases: chickenpox 
  • 2 Exanthematous diseases: measles. 
  • 3 Exanthematous diseases: sixth disease (critical exanthema)
  • 4 Exanthematous diseases: fifth disease (infectious megaloerythema)
  • 5 Exanthematous diseases: rubella
  • 6 Exanthematous diseases: scarlet fever 

Once they were defined as the classic "diseases of children". Scattered dots, fever, malaise hit who knows how many of us as children, probably together with our brothers or sisters. Contagion inevitable! With the advent of vaccines and, in particular, their recent mandatory nature, many of the typical exanthematous diseases of children have been reduced. And luckily: in reality, not all of them are as trivial as our grandmothers thought. Some complications can be dangerous. For others, however, there is no vaccination and therefore it is easier for our children to get sick. Let's take stock of chickenpox, measles, fifth and sixth diseases, rubella and scarlet fever. 

We offer you a sort of fact sheet of these diseases, the common trait of which is the appearance of dots or blisters on the skin (exanthema). You will read "incubation time": it means the period from when the disease is contracted to when it manifests itself. "Duration of infection" means the time span in which the child is contagious. 

Exanthematous diseases: chickenpox 

Incubation time: 14-21 days.

Duration of infection: from 2 days before to 5 days after the appearance of the blisters.

How to recognize it: the disease has an onset with malaise, rash and modest fever. The skin manifestations are red and, within a few days, turn into blisters filled with clear liquid. At the same time, other macules appear which give life to the so-called "starry sky rash". Progressively, the vesicles dry up and become crusts that gradually fall off. If they become infected, they can leave permanent scars.

What to do: Consult your pediatrician to ask which drugs to use. He will likely recommend acetaminophen to lower fever and possibly an antihistamine in case of intense itching. It is advisable to keep the baby at rest and away from pregnant women who have not had chickenpox. As this is a contagious disease, the school must be notified. 

Vaccine: available. 

Exanthematous diseases: measles. 

Incubation time: 7-12 days.

Duration of infection: from a few days before to 4 days after the onset of the rash.

How to recognize: measles presents with general malaise, cold, cough, aches and watery eyes. Thereafter, fever appears and then the rash. The spots are red, tend to enlarge slightly, do not itch. They generally first appear behind the ears, then spread to the face, neck, and the rest of the body. The child appears suffering, with cough and fever. The pathology lasts about a week. 

What to do: keep the baby at rest by making him drink plenty of fluids. Call your pediatrician for fever treatment and in case your child looks very dejected. In case of dry lips, you can protect them with a petroleum jelly ointment. 

Vaccine: available.

Exanthematous diseases: sixth disease (critical rash)

Incubation time: 9-12 days.

Duration of infection: 3-4 days when there is a high fever.

How to recognize it: the first thing that appears is a high fever, up to 39-41 ° C. Typically, it lasts 3 days and can be accompanied by irritability, sore throat, rhinitis. On the third day the fever suddenly goes away, but papules appear. They are pink and usually focused on the body and neck. Few on the face and never on the hands and feet. 

What to do: since it is a viral disease there is no specific therapy. Typically, only fever-lowering drugs are used. If the newborn is predisposed, the elevated temperature can cause seizures. However, this is not a particularly frequent event. 

Vaccine: not available. 

Exanthematous diseases: fifth disease (infectious megaloerythema)

Incubation time: variable between 1 and 20 days.

Duration of infection: it is more infectious in the days preceding the rash. 

How to recognize it: it presents with fever and runny nose (rhinorrhea). A bright red rash may appear on the cheeks (resembles the imprint of a slap). Over the next 2-4 days it has the appearance of a wreath on the trunk and limbs (here it can remain for a long time although in light form). More common in children, but can also affect adults. 

What to do: there are no particular treatments, also because in most cases the disease disappears by itself in a short time. There can be complications for the pregnant woman who is not immune. Those who are pregnant should therefore avoid contact with the sick child. 

Vaccine: not available.

Exanthematous diseases: rubella

Incubation time: 14-21 days.

Duration of infection: 7 days before to 4 days after the onset of the rash.

How to recognize it: the diagnosis of rubella is not always easy. The onset can trivially be that of a cold. The rash appears in 1-2 days, first on the face and then spreads. They are flat spots of light pink color. Symptoms include swollen glands in the neck and behind the neck. The general condition of the child is generally good.

What to do: lower the fever if it rises excessively. Make the little one drink a lot. Avoid contact with pregnant women: if contracted during pregnancy and especially at the beginning, the disease can have serious repercussions on the fetus. That is why among the preconception exams, doctors prescribe the Rubeo test to ascertain whether the expectant mother has had rubella or not. 

Vaccine: available.

Exanthematous diseases: scarlet fever 

Incubation time: 3-5 days.

Infection duration: if left untreated: from the first signs of disease up to 2 weeks. If antibiotic therapy is started: the infectious period is approximately 24 hours from the start of treatment. 

How to recognize it: the first symptom is fever, even high, followed by a rash, located especially on the trunk and "sandpaper". It disappears in about 3 days, leaving the skin peeling. The tongue takes on the characteristic "strawberry" appearance, that is, with dots. In addition, tonsillitis and intense redness of the throat is present.

What to do: consult your pediatrician. He may prescribe a throat swab to detect the presence of group A beta hemolytic strep, the bacterium responsible for scarlet fever. It is necessary to treat it with an antibiotic to prevent complications, such as glomerulonephritis, rheumatic disease. Scarlet fever is contagious, so the child must avoid going to school for at least 24-48 hours after starting antibiotic therapy. 

Vaccine: not available. 

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