Cat-Scratch Disease in Children: Care Instructions

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Your Care Instructions

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.

Follow-up care is a key part of your child's treatment and safety. Be sure to make and go to all appointments, and call your doctor or nurse call line if your child is having problems. It's also a good idea to know your child's test results and keep a list of the medicines your child takes.

How can you care for your child at home?

  • 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. Read and follow all instructions on the label.
  • Do not give a child two or more pain medicines at the same time unless the doctor told you to. Many pain medicines have acetaminophen, which is Tylenol. Too much acetaminophen (Tylenol) can be harmful.

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.

When should you call for help?

Call 911 anytime you think your child may need emergency care. For example, call if:

  • Your child is confused.
  • Your child has difficulty breathing.

Call your doctor or nurse call line now or seek immediate medical care if:

  • Your child has worsening signs of infection, such as:
    • Increased pain, swelling, warmth, or redness.
    • Red streaks leading from the wound.
    • Pus draining from the wound.
    • A fever.
  • Symptoms become more severe or more frequent.

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

  • The scratch or bite does not heal.
  • Your child does not get better as expected.

Where can you learn more?

Go to https://www.healthwise.net/patientEd

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Current as of: March 3, 2017

Author: Healthwise Staff

Medical Review: Adam Husney, MD - Family Medicine & Kathleen Romito, MD - Family Medicine & Leslie Tengelsen, PhD, DVM -