What is Chicken Pox?
Chicken Pox is a common illness caused by a virus known as varicella-zoster.
How is Chicken Pox spread?
This is a highly contagious illness and when your child is not vaccinated they can get it from direct contact(touching an infected child’s skin or fluid from the blisters) or breathing in the air around an infected child (when they cough or sneeze).
What are the symptoms of Chicken Pox?
Chicken Pox symptoms appear after about 10-21days from when your child is exposed to the virus. The symptoms may include:-
- Body and muscle aches
- A reduced appetite
- Feeling tired
- Your child may also be cranky
- After about 2 days of the above, the characteristic spots, blisters and itching will appear
(PICTURE of 3 phases of Chicken Pox lesions)
How long does Chicken Pox last?
In children with no other medical issues, Chicken Pox is usually a mild illness that lasts 5-10days from the appearance of the first symptoms. The skin lesions follow a pattern of three phases that include bumps known as papules, followed by vesicles( blisters with a fluid in them) that finally dry out or crust. When it occurs in older children, teenagers and adults it may take a different and occasionally more severe course.
When should I worry and consult a doctor?
- If the rash spreads to the eyes
- If your child develops dizziness, vomiting or a stiff neck
- If the fever is too high (above 39 degrees centigrade)
- If the rash becomes red, warm and painful a feature that may indicate that the open blisters may have acquired a bacterial skin infection.
- If your child is less than 6 months old
- If your child is living with any illness that compromises their immune system like HIV.
What can I do at home to help my child with Chicken Pox?
- You may use paracetamol ( at the correct dosage) for your child’s fever and muscle aches
- Try and encourage your child to avoid scratching the skin. This puts the child at risk of getting the blisters infected by bacteria.
- Encourage him/her to pat instead of itching
- Dab or pat the child with oatmeal. This is known as an oatmeal bath.
- Dress your child in loose and absorbent clothing so that their skin can breathe.
- You may apply calamine lotion for the itchy spots
- Keep your child cool as heat and moisture may increase itching
- Keep your child well hydrated.
- Allow your child to rest at home to ease his recuperation and avoid infecting others
Take your child for a general paediatric clinic review if you do not feel comfortable managing your child at home or if you are not sure whether it is chicken pox. Your doctor may decide to prescribe antihistamines and antivirals at your consultation or simply reassure you.
How can I prevent my child from getting Chicken Pox?
It is recommended that you take your child for immunisation at 1 year with the varicella zoster vaccine available at well baby clinics.
This vaccine is also recommended for your child who is below 13 years of age and has never been vaccinated or suffered the illness. If your child has had Chicken Pox, there is no need for you to get the vaccine.