Your child may have not been feeling well for a couple of days, being feverish, having a runny nose and some mild cough. Then one morning you get up, see a blistery rash and you realize your child has contracted chickenpox.
Chickenpox is a common and extremely contagious airborne virus (varicella zoster, member of the herpes virus family) usually contracted in childhood. It spreads through the air by coughing or sneezing or by touching an infected child. More than 90% of chickenpox cases occur in children less than 12 years of age. After an infection a person will be immune against chickenpox for a lifetime.
Once a person has been in contact with the virus it takes about 2 weeks before symptoms appear. Chickenpox starts with a mild fever and is characterized by an itchy, blistery rash that forms over the entire body and starts to crust over within a few days until they fall off. Most likely, the first rashes and blisters appear on the chest and face and then spread over the entire body. In some cases blisters may even occur in the ears, the mouth and on the eyelids. Chickenpox blisters show up in waves. While first blisters begin to crust, new spots might appear. While the symptoms last for only a number of days, it takes about 10-14 days until all blisters have crusted over and your child is no longer contagious. The constant scratching of blisters can leave life-long scars which can be caused if scratched wounds become infected with bacteria.
Generally speaking, a case of chickenpox passes without complications and as uncomfortable the itch may be, it is a common illness for children and most get better by lots of rest and seeing it through (like a cold or flu).
In adults chickenpox is normally more severe and may accompany pneumonia. It is advised to consult your practitioner should you as an adult think you have contracted chickenpox.
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Symptoms of chickenpox
Chickenpox are usually quite uncomfortable due to the itch but generally not dangerous or life threatening. Your child may have contracted chickenpox if he/she has the following symptoms:
- Stage one: Mild fever accompanied by runny nose and a cough
- Stage two: Itchy outbreak of a rash turning into blisters on scalp, face and torso
- Stage three: Blisters that crust over and fall off
Chickenpox blisters show up in waves. While first blisters begin to crust new spots of blisters might appear.
Never use NSAIDs e.g. Ibuprofen to reduce the pain or fever a child may be experiencing during the course of chickenpox. The use of NSAIDs may be associated with the development of reye’s syndrom, which can lead to liver failure and even death.
An infection of chickenpox usually passes without complications. However, there are a number of risks involved. We advise you contact your general practitioner if your child experiences any of the following symptoms:
- Has fever that lasts for more than 4 days and rises above 39° Celsius
- Has a severe cough or trouble breathing
- Has an area of rash that leaks pus (thick, discolored fluid) or becomes red, warm, swollen, or sore
- Has a severe headache
- Is unusually drowsy or has trouble waking up
- Has trouble looking at bright lights
- Has difficulty walking
- Seems confused
- Seems very ill or is vomiting
- Has a stiff neck
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Chickenpox are very contagious and some public areas and environments are not suitable for a child that has them.
Playgroup, nursery, pre-school and school
If your child has contracted chickenpox, inform their playgroup, nursery, pre-school and school and keep them home until all the blisters have crusted over and they are no longer contagious. This normally takes place a week after the first rash started.
Some playgroups, schools and such have different rules as your child may have contracted chickenpox there in the first place. Therefore coordinate with your child’s teacher in each individual case.
Playground, public pool, other public places
Try to avoid public places, as others may catch the virus, which may be dangerous, especially to those who are pregnant or have a weak immune system. If your child has contracted chickenpox keep them away from the playground and other public places until all the blisters have crusted over and they are no longer contagious. This normally takes place a week after the first rash began.
If you bring your child to a playground or any other such place, inform the people/parents that your child has chickenpox and is still contagious. Be reminded that just because you think it is fine to bring your contagious child to public places doesn’t mean everybody else will be.
Chickenpox is highly contagious. If your child has contracted chickenpox, he/she should not go swimming or play contact sports unless all blisters have crusted over. This normally takes place a week after the first rash started. Try to avoid public places, as others may catch the virus, which may be dangerous, especially to those who are pregnant or have a weak immune system. Swimming may further soften the crusts, which may result in a more intense itch, the crusts falling off early and leaving scars.
It is fine for your child to shower or bath quickly while having chickenpox. Some children may find a bath in lukewarm or cold water relieves the itch. Do not bath in hot water as this may increase the itch and do not bath for too long. Pat your child dry after showering/bathing. Do not rub, to avoid blisters getting infected, the crusts falling off and leaving scars.
Chickenpox is highly contagious. Your child may not be allowed to fly until all the crusts have fallen off. This is because germs circulate easily through the air condition systems on planes. The virus may be especially dangerous to those who are pregnant or have a weak immune system. In general one is only allowed to fly with a medical report. Each airline has their own policy so check in with them first. In case of one having chickenpox, inform your travel insurance company right away to make sure that you will be covered if you have to cancel or postpone your vacation or if you need to extend your trip until your child is fit enough to travel back home.
Hospital and ward visits
Children with chickenpox should not visit relatives or friends in a hospital or ward without prior approval from such an institution.
Most women have had chickenpox in their childhood and are therefore immune or have had a chickenpox vaccination. However a small percentage of pregnant women develop chickenpox, which can cause complications for both the unborn baby and the pregnant mother. There is a small chance of the baby developing a condition called fetal varicella syndrome (FVS), which can cause serious abnormalities of various parts of the body. For detailed information about the chances of your baby developing FVS, please contact your midwife or gynaecologist, as different stages of pregnancy bear different risks.
If you are pregnant and you think or know that you may have contracted chickenpox contact your midwife, gynaecologist and/or general practitioner right away.
New borns and babies
A chickenpox infection usually creates lifelong immunity to the disease. Nursing new borns and babies are in most cases not susceptible to chickenpox if their mother has had chickenpox as a child. Antibodies will be passed through the placenta during pregnancy and additional ones through her milk to give sufficient immunity. Should your new born or baby still contract chickenpox in the first 6 months of their life, chances are high that they will not develop enough antibodies and therefore may be susceptible to contract the illness again at a later stage.
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How can chickenpox be treated?
PoxClin CoolMousse can be easily and hygienically applied to the areas of affected skin. Chickenpox treatment mostly consists of easing the symptoms. Use PoxClin CoolMousse and follow these additional tips:
- Store the CoolMousse in the fridge to enhance the cooling effect
- Keep your child out of the sun as sweat will increase the itch
- Cut your child’s fingernails to avoid scratching blisters and crusts open
- Cover hands and feet in socks/gloves over night to avoid scratching blisters and crusts open
- Bath in lukewarm bath. Adding some oatmeal (in a sock or washcloth) to the bath may help relieve itching
- Dress your child in light airy clothing
- Pay extra attention to hygiene
- TLC – Tender Loving Care!
Never use NSAIDs to reduce the pain or fever a child may be experiencing during the course of chickenpox. The use of NSAIDs may be associated with the development of reye’s syndrom, which can lead to liver failure and even death.