Chickenpox is a very common childhood disease that causes a rash, fever and a feeling of being generally unwell.
In most cases, symptoms are mild and recovery is quick.
We take a look at what you need to know about chickenpox, including how it can be prevented and what to do to treat the symptoms at home.
What is chickenpox?
Chickenpox is a very infectious disease caused by the varicella-zoster virus. It’s common in childhood, though adults can get it too. It usually lasts a week or two and can be treated at home.
Sometimes there are serious complications, which can mean the affected person needs to be treated in a hospital.
If your child is infected with chickenpox, they will probably notice itchy red spots as their first symptom. As the illness progresses, these spots change to blisters filled with fluid and may burst or crust over.
Your child may also experience fever, headache and feeling tired and unwell.
Symptoms usually appear around two weeks after contact with someone with chickenpox and usually last between 10 days and three weeks.
If an adult catches chickenpox, the symptoms are usually more severe and it takes longer to recover.
How does chickenpox spread?
You get chickenpox through contact with an infected person. For example, if they sneeze or cough near you, you may come into contact with their respiratory fluids.
You can also catch chickenpox if you touch the fluid from an infected person’s blisters.
Once a patient’s last blister has crusted over, they are considered to no longer be infectious.
Who is most at risk of chickenpox?
Chickenpox can be caught easily by anyone who has not had the vaccination or had the disease in the past. It is particularly common in children.
Chickenpox can be dangerous for:
- Pregnant women — If you get chickenpox for the first time in pregnancy, you are more at risk of developing complications or a severe form of the disease. Babies of pregnant women with chickenpox may be affected by birth defects affecting their eyes, skin, limbs or nervous system.
- Newborn babies
- People with weak immune systems
What is the treatment for chickenpox?
For children, the itchy spots or blisters are usually the most troublesome symptom. You should discourage your child from scratching their blisters to avoid infection and scarring.
You can also:
- Cut their fingernails short.
- Use calming lotions like calamine lotion or aloe vera-based products to soothe the rash.
- Bathe your child in a lukewarm bath with oatmeal or baking soda added.
- Use cooling products on itchy skin.
If your child has a fever, you can:
- Track their temperature. Infrared thermometers are a non-invasive way to get an accurate temperature. Know that your child is likely to have a fever if their temperature is 38°C or higher.
- Keep them hydrated with plenty of clear fluids.
- Dress them in lightweight clothing.
- Keep the temperature of their bedroom comfortable.
- Offer paracetamol, following the directions on the packet.
Usually, chickenpox can be treated at home, but you should consult your doctor if:
- Your child’s fever is very high or won’t go down.
- They have neck pain.
- They have difficulty breathing.
- They have red or sore areas around their blisters.
Complications from chickenpox are rare but can be serious. They include:
- The blisters becoming infected
- Scarring at the site of the blisters
- Pneumonia (infection in one or both lungs)
- Meningitis (inflammation of the membranes surrounding the brain and spinal cord)
- Encephalitis (inflammation of the brain)
If you are worried about complications, get medical help straight away.
How is chickenpox prevented?
Getting the chickenpox vaccine is the best way to avoid getting the illness. It can be given as a single vaccine or in a combination vaccine that also offers protection against measles, mumps and rubella.
Some people experience mild side effects after getting vaccinated against chickenpox, such as a rash at the injection site. These tend to go away after a few days.
You can ask your healthcare provider for more information about getting yourself or your child vaccinated against chickenpox.
Adding wellness to your everyday!
While chickenpox can be uncomfortable, it is rarely serious, and most children recover quickly.
This means that you can usually treat your child at home, relieving their symptoms with FeverMates health and wellbeing products such as cooling patches and thermometers.
Remember that the best way to prevent chickenpox is through vaccination, so talk to your doctor if you or your child hasn’t had the jab yet.
And check out the FeverMates range for those essential items to add wellness to your everyday!