Child care: Cat scratch disease

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Cat scratch disease can cause children to become sick for weeks or even months. This condition develops after a child has been bitten or scratched by a cat. Most cases develop among those younger than 20 years old.

This condition is caused by Bartonella henselae which is transmitted to humans by cats that appear healthy but infected by the bacteria. The disease spreads among cats via fleas but could not be transmitted from person to person. It usually takes a week or longer for the symptoms to initial manifest, oftentimes even a month and a half.

What are the indications of cat scratch disease?

Cat scratch disease
The characteristic sign of cat scratch disease is one or several swollen lymph nodes.

The characteristic sign of cat scratch disease is one or several swollen lymph nodes. The affected lymph nodes might include those in the armpit, neck or groin. In most instances, the child might have a small-sized abscess on the skin where the cat graze or bite occurred. The lump is likely to manifest 1-2 weeks before the lymph nodes become swollen and can last for several weeks.

The skin over the engorged lymph nodes is warm, hard, reddened and tender to the touch. The child might also have a headache, fever, tiredness and poor appetite.

What should I do?

In case a child is scratched or bitten by a cat, the initial measure is to wash the area using water and soap.

A doctor should be consulted if the child ends up with distended lymph nodes. This swelling might have other possible causes including cat scratch disease.


The doctor might recommend treatments that are aimed on alleviating the symptoms of cat scratch disease. In case the child develops a sore lymph node that is filled with pus, the doctor will decide to drain using a needle to make the child more comfortable.

Remember that cat scratch disease is usually self-limited. It simply means that the infection and swollen lymph nodes settle on their own over time in 2-4 months without treatment.

Preventive measures

Make sure that the child is not allowed to play roughly with cats especially kittens. Take note that this form of play increases the risk for ending up with a bite or scratch.

The child must be taught on how to properly interact with animals. The child should not attempt to take food away from the cat and avoid teasing, petting or capturing any stray cats.

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