Children's Health and Wellness

Cat Scratch Disease in Children

Cat scratches and bites can cause cat scratch disease, a bacterial infection carried in cat saliva. The bacteria are passed from a cat to a human after the cat licks its paws then scratches human skin. Rubbing the eyes after petting a cat's fur can also spread cat scratch disease. Young kittens less than 1 year of age are more likely to scratch, increasing the likelihood of infection.

What are the symptoms of cat scratch disease?

The following are the most common symptoms of cat scratch disease. However, each child may experience symptoms differently. Symptoms may include:

  • A cat bite or scratch that does not heal or worsens over time

  • Painful or swollen glands, especially under the armpits or on the side of the neck 

  • Flu-like symptoms including headache, lethargy, decreased appetite, fatigue, joint pain, or fever

  • Body rash

The symptoms of cat scratch disease may resemble other conditions or medical problems. Always consult your child's doctor for a diagnosis.

Treatment for cat scratch disease

Specific treatment for cat scratch disease will be determined by your child's doctor based on the following:

  • Your child's age, health, and medical history

  • Extent of the injury

  • Your child's tolerance for specific medications, procedures, or therapies

  • Expectations for the course of the injury

  • Your opinion or preference

  • The location of the injury

Treatment may include:

  • Blood tests

  • Antibiotics (to treat the infection)

  • Supportive care (to treat the symptoms that result from the infection)

Online Source: CDChttp://www.cdc.gov/HEALTHYPETS/diseases/catscratch.htm
Online Source: American Academy of Pediatricshttp://www.healthychildren.org/english/health-issues/conditions/from-insects-animals/pages/cat-scratch-disease.aspx
Online Source: Treatment of Cat Scratch Disease; Microbiology, Epidemiology, Clinical Manifestations and Diagnosis of Cat Scratch Disease, UpToDatehttp://www.uptodate.com
Online Editor: Geller, Arlene
Online Medical Reviewer: Gomez, Wanda, RN, Ph.D.
Online Medical Reviewer: newMentor board-certified, academically affiliated clinician
Date Last Reviewed: 4/29/2013
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