What is cat scratch disease?

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Cat-scratch disease in children: Overview

Cat-scratch disease (also known as cat-scratch fever) is a bacterial infection that causes swelling and pain in the lymph nodes and loss of appetite. In most cases, it occurs after a scratch, bite, or lick from a cat or kitten.

Symptoms can vary from mild to severe. They can include fever, headache, and fatigue. They may not appear for several days after the bite or scratch and may last for several weeks.

Although cat-scratch disease usually goes away without treatment, antibiotics may be used to help with recovery.

Cat-scratch disease

Cat-scratch disease (also commonly known as cat-scratch fever) is a bacterial infection that causes swelling and pain in the lymph nodes and loss of appetite. In most cases, it occurs after a scratch, bite, or lick from a cat or kitten. This infection is also called bartonellosis.

Symptoms can vary from mild to severe, may not appear for several days after the bite or scratch, and may last for several weeks.

Although cat-scratch disease usually goes away without treatment, antibiotics are often used to speed recovery.

How can you care for cat-scratch disease in children?

  • If the doctor prescribed antibiotics for your child, give them as directed. Do not stop using them just because your child feels better. Your child needs to take the full course of antibiotics.
  • Give your child acetaminophen (Tylenol) or ibuprofen (Advil, Motrin) for pain. Do not use ibuprofen if your child is less than 6 months old unless the doctor gave you instructions to use it. Be safe with medicines. Read and follow all instructions on the label.

If your child has swelling and pain in the lymph nodes:

  • Put ice or a cold pack on the area for 10 to 20 minutes at a time. Put a thin cloth between the ice and your child's skin.

Cat-scratch disease in children: When to call

Call your doctor now or seek immediate medical care if:

  • Your child is confused or can't think clearly.
  • You notice changes in your child's eyes.
  • Your child has vision changes.
  • Your child has worse signs of infection, such as:
    • Increased pain, swelling, warmth, or redness.
    • Red streaks leading from the wound.
    • Pus draining from the wound.
    • A fever.

Watch closely for changes in your child's health, and be sure to contact your doctor if:

  • Your child does not get better as expected.

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