A lot changes as we grow into adults, but a lot stays the same, too. If you thought you’d eventually outgrow your risk for certain “childhood” illness as you age, you might be surprised to learn that while some health conditions are more common in kids, adults aren’t totally immune.
Here are six common “kid” health conditions that adults can get, too.
Allergies don’t disappear with age, and in some cases, they may not appear until you reach adulthood. Children and adults alike can have allergies to nearly anything including plants, food, medications, animals and even certain products like latex.
Allergies that don’t develop until adulthood tend to be seasonal. If you develop cold symptoms that don’t go away or an itchy throat, nose or eyes, you may have seasonal allergies. Work with an allergist to determine the cause of your allergies, and consider taking an antihistamine to help keep your allergies in check.
If you weren’t the child wheezing on the sidelines of the soccer field in middle school, you can still develop asthma as an adult. Asthma makes the airways swell and spasm and causes wheezing, shortness of breath, chest pain, tightness and coughing. It is often exercise-induced, but it may also be caused by an allergic reaction to something in the air such as pollen or mold spores.
Once you’ve had an asthma attack, you’re always at risk of another. Talk to your doctor about getting a prescription inhaler or other medication to help you the next time you have an attack.
Thanks to the chickenpox vaccine, fewer children are coming down with this particular illness, but children or adults who are not vaccinated can develop the itchy spots known as chickenpox. Unfortunately for adults who never had chickenpox as a child or who are unvaccinated, getting chickenpox later in life is riskier and may lead to serious conditions such as sepsis (an extreme and potentially life-threatening reaction to infection) and pneumonia.
The symptoms of chickenpox are an itchy rash that turns into blisters and is accompanied by high fever, fatigue, loss of appetite and/or headache. If you didn’t get chickenpox as a kid, ask your doctor about getting the chickenpox vaccine to protect you as an adult.
Children who have pinkeye are very contagious to other children as well as adults. Pinkeye is an infection of the lining of the eyelids that causes eye discharge and redness. Either bacteria or a virus can cause it, but the exact cause isn’t always clear.
Pinkeye can be treated with antibiotic ointment or eye drops. If the cause is viral, there’s no treatment and the condition will get better on its own. If you wear contact lenses, take them out and stick to wearing your glasses until the symptoms subside. Once pinkeye is gone, be sure to use a new set of contacts and a new contact lens case to avoid reinfecting your eyes.
Pertussis (whooping cough)
Although it’s most dangerous for babies, the violent, uncontrollable cough known as whooping cough can be tough on adults, too. Symptoms of whooping cough include congestion, fever and sneezing followed by severe coughing. Antibiotics can help clear up symptoms so see your doctor if you suspect you or your child has whooping cough.
The whooping cough virus is airborne. Anyone who is not up to date on his or her vaccinations can catch it. Doctors once believed that whooping cough immunity was lifelong, but that’s no longer the case. Adults should get the Tdap vaccine (which protects against pertussis, tetanus and diphtheria) followed by Td vaccine every 10 years. For adults who did not receive Tdap as an adolescent, a dose of Tdap can replace one of the 10-year Td booster doses. Pregnant women should get the vaccine in their third trimester to protect their baby.
Type 1 diabetes
Type 1 diabetes used to be known as juvenile diabetes, but that has changed. Adults can also be diagnosed with this autoimmune condition, which prevents the body from producing insulin, the hormone necessary to break down glucose. Although the exact reason why adults develop type 1 diabetes is unclear, it may be due to family history or exposure to certain viruses.
Symptoms of diabetes include severe thirst, frequent urination, sudden weight loss, drowsiness, changes in vision, heavy breathing or wounds that don’t heal. If you experience any of these symptoms, talk with your primary care provider.
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