Pox diseases

​The national Finnish vaccination program has succeeded in nearly eliminating all instances of the traditional childhood diseases rubella, measles and mumps. 

Some virus diseases cause urticaria or an eruption of small spots on the skin, although the condition is not a pox disease.

Hand, foot and mouth disease (enteroviral vesicular stomatitis with exanthem)


Hand, foot and mouth disease (HFMD) is a disease caused by enteroviruses and occurs typically at the end of the summer and in the autumn. The disease is typically spread from stools to hands and through the mouth to the gastrointestinal tract. Its incubation period is 3 to 7 days.


  • sore throat
  • fever
  • abdominal symptoms, diarrhea
  • stomatitis, blisters on the mucous layers of the cheeks and tongue
  • blisters on the hands and feet, and in the nappy area in infants


The child is usually in good physical condition, and the disease passes in a few days.

Slapped cheek syndrome (Fifth disease)


Slapped cheek syndrome is also known as "fifth disease". It is caused by parvovirus and occurs most commonly in the spring. The disease spreads through the air and is most contagious before the rash erupts. The incubation period is 6 to 16 days.


  • a bright red rash on both cheeks which looks as if the child has been slapped on the cheek
  • one to four days after the rash appears on the cheeks, it spreads to the arms and legs and then passes after 1 to 7 days, but may appear sporadically after several weeks
  • some children may also develop fever, headache and respiratory tract symptoms
Pregnant women should avoid contact with patients suffering from fifth disease because contracting the virus could cause complications.

Scarlet fever


Scarlet fever is the only pox caused by bacteria (streptococci). In older children and adults, the same bacteria cause pharyngitis. The incubation time of the disease is 3 to 5 days.


  • high fever
  • tongue red and swollen (strawberry tongue)
  • sore throat
  • bright red cheeks, a pale triangular area around the mouth and nose
  • a pinkish-red rash appearing as if pricked by spruce twigs, starting from the face, neck and chest and spreading to the arms and legs

Seek medical assistance if you suspect your child has contracted scarlet fever. The diagnosis is confirmed by a throat swab culture and blood tests.

Treatment and infectiousness

Scarlet fever is always treated with antibiotics. The disease will no longer be infectious after 24 hours on a course of antibiotics.

Three-day fever (roseola infantum)


Most children who contract three-day fever do so when under the age of three. The disease may pass without any symptoms, or with the child having very mild symptoms. The disease is typically transmitted through saliva. Its incubation period is usually 5 to 15 days.


  • fever (possibly high) for 3 to 5 days, but might also subside in a couple of hours
  • as the fever subsides, a papular rash appears first around the ears and then spreads to the face, neck and torso 
  • the sometimes very pale rash lasts from a few hours to a couple of days
  • irritability
  • mild respiratory tract symptoms
  • diarrhea
  • conjunctivitis
  • swelling around the eyes


Ease the symptoms by giving your child antipyretics and/or analgesics and make sure your child drinks plenty of fluids.

Chickenpox (varicella)

In Finland, most people contract chickenpox (varicella) during childhood. Chickenpox is caused by the varicella-zoster virus, which is one of the herpes viruses. It spreads easily through the air and by touching blisters. Its incubation time is 12 to 16 days.


  • mild fever
  • a few red spots which turn into fluid-filled blisters covering the whole body; some children will have only a few blisters while, others may have hundreds; the rash is very itchy

Treatment and infectiousness

The blisters usually crust over within five days. However, a child may have spots and blisters in different stages of their cycle, and recovery depends on the number of fresh blisters. The disease is no longer infectious when all the blisters have crusted over. Chickenpox is dangerous – and can even be fatal – for people with immune system disorders, such as leukemia or lymphoma. Therefore, avoid taking a sick child to public places.

The rash can be very itchy. Showering with warm water and applying cooling cream (menthol and spirit, available without prescription from pharmacies) on intact blisters (stings on ruptured blisters) may alleviate the itch. You might consider putting socks over the child's hands at night to stop them scratching in their sleep. Seek medical assistance if the rash is very itchy or if blisters become infected because of scratching.