Chicken Pox

Has your son or daughter been complaining of itchy skin lately? Have you noticed the appearance of tiny red bumps on your child’s face, chest, or back? If so, then you might need to prepare for a bout with the chickenpox! Though not very fun to experience, chicken pox is a very common illness which almost every child experiences. And because it’s highly contagious, you can expect that all of your children will probably contract chicken pox at the same time (if they haven’t had to deal with them before). Here is some great information which will help you to become more familiar with chickenpox and how to deal with it.

What is Chicken Pox?
Chicken pox is a very common, highly contagious viral illness. Affecting more than three million people in the United States each year, chickenpox is usually a very mild illness. Caused by a virus known as the varicella-zoster virus (VZV), chickenpox is actually a type of herpes. It causes various symptoms, the most recognizable of which is a red, blister-like rash that develops all over the body. There is no cure for chicken pox, but home treatment can help to make your child more comfortable.

Who Gets Chicken Pox?
Chicken pox occurs most commonly in boys and girls under the age of 15. However, because the virus is so contagious, anyone who has not been sick with the virus can catch it, including children, infants, and adults. Most people who contract chicken pox will not experience any health complications as a result of the virus. However, chicken pox can be very dangerous when it is contracted by certain people, including:

  • infants
  • pregnant women
  • people with compromised immune systems

How Do You Get Chicken Pox?
Chicken pox can only be contracted if you have never had the virus before. It is typically contracted through direct contact with someone who has the chickenpox virus, however, it can also be contracted through the air if an infected person sneezes or coughs.

The chicken pox virus is highly contagious and you have a 80% to 90% chance of getting the virus if you are around someone who is infected. The virus is contagious for two days before the chicken pox rash appears, and until all of the blisters have scabbed over.

Once you have had chicken pox, the virus will remain in your system. This means that the virus can reactivate later in life, however, this is fairly unusual. When chickenpox reactivates it is referred to as Shingles. Shingles causes the familiar chicken pox rash and blisters, however, it can also cause severe nerve tingling and pain.

What are the Symptoms of Chicken Pox?
Chicken pox usually begins as a red, pimply rash that appears on your child’s face, abdomen, or back. After a day or so, this rash will spread all over the body, including the ears, scalp, and mouth. Within two to four days, these pimples will develop into blisters, which are typically between one-quarter and one-half inch in diameter. These blisters will eventually break, releasing a clear or cloudy liquid and leaving open wounds on the body. The virus begins to disappear as the blisters scab over, and eventually dry up and fall off of the skin.

Chicken pox symptoms can be quite unpleasant, particularly if your child has a lot of blisters on his body. These blisters can be particularly itchy and even painful, especially if located inside of the mouth or around the eyes. Your child may also experience flu-like symptoms with the chicken pox, including:

Complications Associated with Chicken Pox
For most people, chicken pox doesn’t cause any health concerns or complications. However, some children can develop serious cases of chicken pox, particularly if they are very young. Complications that can occur on occasion include:

  • infection of the blisters
  • high fever
  • pneumonia
  • brain inflammation (encephalitis)

Chicken pox can also be very dangerous if contracted during pregnancy. If you are pregnant and contract the chicken pox virus during the three trimesters of pregnancy, this could put your baby at risk for certain birth defects. If you contract chicken pox within five days of labor, your baby could develop a life-threatening case of the disease. If you do contract chicken pox during pregnancy, be sure to see your health care provider right away. She can provide you with medication that will help to improve your baby’s outlook.

Chicken pox Treatment
Because it is a virus, there are no effective medications to cure the chicken pox. Instead, try out these home treatments for chicken pox, which will help make your child feel more comfortable:

  • Apply cool compresses to the blisters every three to four hours.
  • Let your child soak in an oatmeal bath. This will help to stop the itch and dry out the blisters.
  • Apply calamine lotion to itchy areas (be sure to avoid the face and eye areas).
  • Cut your child’s nails short, so that he can’t scratch the blisters, causing an infection.
  • Give your child acetaminophen to help decrease fever or sore throat. Never administer aspirin to a person who has chicken pox as it could cause severe liver damage (Reyes Disease).

Preventing Chicken Pox
There is now a vaccine available to help reduce the risk of your child contracting chicken pox. This vaccine, available for children older than 12 months, is 75% to 90% effective in preventing the disease. And, if your child does get chicken pox, the vaccine will ensure that symptoms are much more mild. Speak with your health care provider about getting your children vaccinated for chicken pox.