More adults suffer from teething problems

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Mutation of childhood diseases: More and more adults are infected

Teething problems are on the rise, and are causing problems for some adults. Whether measles, mumps, chickenpox or rubella - the so-called childhood diseases are increasingly developing into adult diseases. With measles, for example, you first have to struggle with typical symptoms of a severe cold before the reddish-blotchy rash can no longer be overlooked and as an adult you can now no longer doubt it.

Ten years ago, only 8.5 percent of all measles patients were older than 20 years. Today it is almost 40 percent. "We see a similar development in whooping cough," says Jan Leidel, chairman of the Standing Vaccination Committee (Stiko). "Here, the average age of those affected is already 42 years. The character of teething is getting more and more lost." This is a problematic development in that the principle applies to most teething: The older you are with the illness, the more The risk is also greater, and a brief overview of the most common teething problems should help you make a diagnosis so that you can act as early as possible.

Measles is one of the most infectious childhood diseases. Anyone who has received them will remain immune to them in the future. However, the virus should not be underestimated because it can have serious consequences. Tracheal and larynx infections as well as pneumonia and otitis media have a strong cold character. If there is inflammation of the brain or meninges, the consequences can be fatal. "Teething doesn't mean harmless," says Leidel. Stiko recommends vaccination to all people who have not yet contracted the measles virus.

A study by the Federal Center for Health Education (BZgA) shows that around 80 percent of those born after 1970 do not even know this recommendation. Another positive effect is that you also get protection against mumps and rubella

whooping cough
As an adult, the risk of developing whooping cough again, even if you had it in childhood, has not been overcome. Even if you don't have to fear the bacteria for about 15 years, vaccination is advisable.

As with measles, there are increasingly older patients who are affected: "77 percent of people who have had whooping cough in 2013 are older than 20 years," says Leidel. Between 2006 and 2012, the Barmer GEK saw an increase of 50 percent. "The symptoms in adults are similar to those in children: They suffer above all from a long-lasting cough with often staccato-like seizures," says Winfried Kern, chairman of the German Society for Infectious Diseases (DGI). "Although the complication of encephalopathy does not exist in adults, that is, the pathological change in the brain, whooping cough often encounters and worsens chronic diseases." Since 2009, Stiko has recommended getting vaccinated every ten years. This usually goes hand in hand with vaccination against tetanus and diphtheria, since there is no single substance against whooping cough.

Even with mumps, the first thing you suspect is a cold. Fever and swelling of the ear glands are typical of the mumps virus. Men can also get a painful testicular inflammation, which in rare cases can lead to infertility. "Meningitis also often occurs, which can lead to permanent neurological damage. Rarely does pancreatitis occur," says Kern. As with the other two teething problems, the older the patient, the higher the complication rate. "In the past, mumps outbreaks were almost only in kindergartens and elementary schools, but now this is increasingly shifting to secondary schools and universities. 73 percent of people who have contracted mumps in 2013 are older than 20 years," says Leidel. Here, too, the Stiko recommends getting vaccinated.

In addition to headache and body aches and swelling of the lymph nodes at the back of the head, there is usually an elevated temperature before red spots appear in the form of a rash on the face and body. Rubella has been subject to notification since March 2013 and must be reported to the Robert Koch Institute (RKI). This must also be the case with the two previous teething problems. Caution should be exercised for expectant mothers. The virus can severely damage the embryo or result in stillbirth, premature birth or miscarriage. Rubella is particularly critical in the first three months of pregnancy: in this case, only about ten percent of unborn children do not suffer any damage. "We are trying to avoid rubella epidemics by widespread vaccination," says Leidel.

In comparison, only a few adults get chickenpox. But the trend is also increasing here. In 2002, less than one percent of those affected were over 20 years old. This number had already climbed to five percent in 2010. So far, 29 percent of chickenpox patients have been older than 20 years. Chicken pox can be recognized by the small red blisters on the torso and face

"The rate of complications is significantly increased in adulthood," says Kern. These include pneumonia or an infection of the central nervous system. This can lead to permanent paralysis. The Stiko recommends that children be vaccinated against chickenpox. However, vaccination is controversial among some experts. "Although the data available are quite good, there is criticism and fears that this vaccination will only move the disease into adulthood and that shingles may occur more frequently later," explains Kern.

Scarlet fever
A red tongue, sore throat, fever, chills and a spotty itchy rash are the hallmarks of scarlet fever. Usually an antibiotic is postponed by the doctors. Without this medication, the teething problem can have serious consequences. These include rheumatic fever, or an inflammation of the heart or kidneys. There is no vaccination against scarlet fever. In addition, even if you have already been infected, the risk of a new illness remains. One reason for this are the many different types of pathogens. (fr)

Image: Andreas Morlok /

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