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How to differentiate measles, chickenpox, and rubella in children

How to differentiate measles, chickenpox, and rubella in children


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There are three viral infections that occur with pimples-spots on the skin, and that often generate confusion among the parents of children who suffer from them.

Measles, chicken pox and rubella are highly contagious viral diseases and are sometimes difficult to differentiate, especially for parents, since the common element in them are red pimples and itching on the skin. However, in addition to these grains, there are several key points that differentiate one from the other.

Measles in children

This disease presents with a high fever of 39-40º lasting at least three days, associated with cough, mucus and red eyes (conjunctivitis). From the point of view of the "pimples", what differentiates measles, rubella and chickenpox is that they affect the palms of the hands and the soles of the feet, and do not whiten when we squeeze the skin around them.

They do not itch. If we look at the mouth of these children, we can see some white spots, called Koplik spots. A small percentage of patients develop pneumonia as a complication. More rarely, complications appear in the central nervous system. Its best treatment is preventive, through regulated vaccination.

Rubella in children

In rubella, the fever is not as high as in measles. Nonspecific symptoms may appear, typical of a flu-like picture (few catarrhal symptoms, muscle pain), and enlargement of the lymph nodes present behind the ears, in the neck and occipital region.

In this disease, the patches on the skin are pink, can be itchy, and typically begin on the face; As the days go by, they are also seen in the thorax, abdomen and lower limbs. Complications are rare, highlighting neurological complications, low platelets and arthritis. It can also be prevented, through the use of the vaccine. To highlight the importance of preventing the appearance of congenital rubella (which appears in unvaccinated pregnant women of this entity).

Chickenpox in children

In chickenpox there is usually no high fever either. Characteristically, in chickenpox the skin lesions are very itchy. These are usually found in different phases (spots, pimples, vesicles, pustules and scabs), and are distributed throughout the body. The most frequent complication is superinfection by bacteria of skin lesions.

It can also cause complications in the central nervous system. From a treatment point of view, it is important to administer oral antihistamines to control the itching, and thus prevent the child from scratching. There is an antiviral (called acyclovir) that has been shown to be effective when given in the early stages of the disease. There is also a specific vaccine.

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