A Young John F. Kennedy Contracts Scarlet Fever

On February 20, 1920 when Jack was not yet three years old, he became sick with scarlet fever, a highly contagious and then potentially life-threatening disease.

His father, Joseph Patrick Kennedy, was terrified that little Jack would die. Mr. Kennedy went to the hospital every day to be by his son’s side, and about a month later Jack took a turn for the better and recovered. But Jack was never very healthy, and because he was always suffering from one ailment or another his family used to joke about the great risk a mosquito took in biting him – with some of his blood the mosquito was almost sure to die!

Kennedy's youth -- and much of his adult life -- was marked by health problems, including scarlet fever, an appendectomy, and colitis. Kennedy enrolled at Harvard College in the fall of 1936; while playing football for the college team he ruptured a disk in his back, an injury that affected him the rest of his life.