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Childhood is all about getting older, getting bigger, and getting sick. Kids simply don’t have full-fledged immune systems just yet. Thus, we spend our early years building them up the hard way with nasty cases of infections, inflammations, and viruses keeping us sick in bed for far too long.
These sick days pay off as adults when we’re better able to fight off these diseases, but some of our old childhood foes can still slip through the cracks. Here are four childhood diseases you can catch in adulthood.
If you never got the MMR vaccine and its necessary booster shots, you could find yourself with a case of the mumps—a painful inflammation of the salivary glands. Though the propagation of the MMR vaccine drastically cut down on cases of measles, mumps, and rubella, mumps outbreaks in adults are not impossible.
In 2014, the National Hockey League was beset by a strain of mumps traveling through its dressing rooms and the physical contact between opposing teams.
In childhood, you may have had a pang of envy toward your classmates who missed a week of school to recover from tonsil surgery and got to spend that week eating seemingly nothing but ice cream.
If you were able to hold on to your tonsils into adulthood, there’s no guarantee that you’re going to do so forever. If you find yourself coming down with case after case of tonsillitis, you may finally need to have your tonsils taken out. Be forewarned—the recovery from tonsillectomy surgery is a bit longer and more painful as an adult, and you may have since lost your sweet tooth for that ice cream diet.
Near the end of the 20th century, the varicella zoster, or the chickenpox vaccine, was approved as a means to inoculate against one of the more uncomfortable childhood diseases. Between vaccinations and the natural contraction of the virus, most people are immune from chickenpox. But if you made it through childhood without catching it or receiving the shot, you’re just as much at risk for chickenpox as you were in childhood. Worse, adult chickenpox can recur in the form of shingles, a painful variant of the chickenpox virus.
We all remember those days in elementary school where we would be sent to the nurse’s office to be screened for head lice. If you were lucky, the check came and went without incident, but some poor souls were sent home to douse their scalps in mayonnaise and medicated shampoos.
It’s no surprise that some kids who had a nasty bout with head lice grew up to abhor mayo on their sandwiches. While you’re out of school now, that doesn’t mean lice and nits will leave you alone. You can still wind up with a case of louse infestation as another one of the childhood diseases you can catch in adulthood, sending you running for those same stinky shampoos at the pharmacy.
Before the whooping cough vaccine was introduced, up to 150,000 cases a year were reported in the UK. However, immunity from the vaccine wanes in adulthood, so adults are now more likely to get it than children.
The vaccine is given to babies as they’re the ones most likely to get complications, including pneumonia and even death. Importantly, these vaccines are given at 2,3, and 4 months as part of the NHS childhood vaccination schedule – you need all three vaccinations for full protection, so they’re probably five months old before they’re 100% safe.
In adults, whooping cough causes distressing bouts of coughing which go on for a couple of months but rarely gives rise to serious complications. However, if you become acutely short of breath, develop sharp chest pains when you cough or cough up blood or rusty sputum, do see your doctor.
I hope you do not end up with any of these conditions. Please stay healthy.