My Child Has Chickenpox – What Now?
The Chicken Pox Virus
Chickenpox is a disease caused by the varicella-zoster virus (VZV) and is extremely contagious. It causes fever and tiredness, along with a very itchy rash which turns into small blisters. In babies, people with weakened immune systems and adults the chicken pox virus can be very serious and anyone who has not had chickenpox before, or has not had the vaccine is at risk of contracting the disease.
Signs And Symptoms Of Chickenpox
- Chicken pox usually lasts for around five to seven days
- Shows as a rash which turns into very itchy, fluid filled blisters that eventually scab over. (in around one week all of the blisters will be scabbed over)
The rash generally shows up on the face, chest, stomach and back before spreading to the rest of the body.
Some Common Symptoms That May Appear 1-2 Days Before The Rash Include:
- Loss of appetite
Although chickenpox complications are rare, they can occur, and anyone with a severe case of the virus is at risk, especially:
- Pregnant women
- People with a weakened immune system because of illness or medications, such as people with cancer, HIV/AIDS, people on chemotherapy or immunosuppressive drugs etc
Chickenpox Complications May Include:
- Bacterial infections of the soft tissues and skin such as Group A Streptococcal Infections
- Brain infections or inflammation. E.g. encephalitis and cerebellar ataxia (cerebellitis)
- Sepsis (infections in the blood stream)
- Bleeding problems
- Severe chickenpox complications can be fatal
When Is A Person Contagious?
Chickenpox is passed on to people who have not been vaccinated or have never had the disease before. It is commonly spread by touching, or inhaling the virus from the chickenpox blisters.
- A person infected with chickenpox can pass on the disease from one or two days before the rash is visible, until the time all of the blisters have scabbed over (around 5-7 days)
- After being exposed to a person with chickenpox or shingles it takes 10 to 21 days to develop the disease
- You can still spread the disease even if you have been vaccinated
Generally if you have had chickenpox you are immune for life, but a few people may contract the disease more than once, although this is rare.
Treatments For Chickenpox
See your doctor for a definitive diagnosis and treatment plan which may include anti-viral medications.
- These medications generally work best if given within 24 hours after the rash is visible.
Home Treatments For Chickenpox
Some Home Treatments That May Relieve The Symptoms And Prevent Infections Include:
- Trim fingernails short to help stop skin infections caused by scratching
- Colloidal oatmeal baths and calamine lotion to relieve the itching
- Over-the-counter Medications – Do not use aspirin or aspirin containing medications to reduce the fever. Aspirin use in kids has been associated with Reye’s syndrome, a severe, possibly fatal disease.
When To Call The Doctor Immediately
Some people are more likely to have complications. You should see your doctor if the person:
- Is under one year old
- Is older than 12 years old
- Has a weakened immune system
- Is pregnant
Or If The Person Shows Any Of These Symptoms:
- Has difficulty breathing
- Has a fever which remains for 4 days
- Has a fever above 38.9°C (102°F)
- Has possible signs of a bacterial infections including any body part becoming red, warm, tender to touch, or is leaking puss (thick whitish fluid)
- Has a fever that rises above 102°F (38.9°C)
- Becomes extremely ill
- Becomes confused or has difficulty waking up
- Has difficulty walking
- Develops a stiff neck
- Is vomiting frequently
- Has a severe cough
- Has severe abdominal pain
- Has a hemorrhagic rash (the rash has bleeding or bruising)
How To Prevent Chickenpox
The absolute best way to prevent chickenpox is to get vaccinated against it. The chickenpox vaccine is safe, simple and very effective at preventing the disease.
Once vaccinated most people will never get the disease, in rare cases some people may still get chickenpox but the symptoms are usually very mild.