What are the Causes and and Symptoms of Chickenpox?
Chickenpox is a common, highly contagious illness which most children catch at some point. The most obvious symptom to look out for is itchy, red spots and these can appear all over the body.
What causes chickenpox?
Chickenpox is a viral illness caused by the varicella-zoste
r virus. It is spread quickly and easily through droplets being released into the air when an infected person sneezes or coughs. Chickenpox can affect people of all ages but it is most common among young children. Once you have had chickenpox your body builds up immunity, meaning that the risk of getting the infection again is very low. By the time they reach adulthood around 90% of people are immune to chickenpox.
What are the signs and symptoms?
Many people will be familiar with the vision of a child waking up in the morning covered with small red spots, which are itchy and can be found in most areas of the body, including the face, hands, chest, legs and back. Other symptoms include a high temperature, feeling irritable and generally feeling unwell. Babies and children may appear more clingy and emotional than usual and they may eat less than normal.
Initially, the spots appear as a red rash, but after around 12 hours, fluid-filled blisters develop making the spots very itchy. After 24-48 hours the spots start to crust over and the spots should then subside, but it can take up to 2 weeks for the spots to disappear completely.
Preventing the spread of chickenpox
Chickenpox is highly contagious and spreads quickly around classrooms and nurseries. If your child has chickenpox keep them off school until all the blisters have dried up and the spots have completely crusted over. Also, it is a good idea to avoid visiting friends or relatives during this period of time. It is particularly important to avoid anyone with chickenpox if you are pregnant or have a weakened immune system. Newborn babies should also be kept away from anyone who has chickenpox as their immune systems are underdeveloped.
There is no cure for chickenpox but it usually clears up without any problems. The spots are itchy and so applying Calamine lotion or soothing gel can help to ease itchiness. Painkillers that are available over-the-counter can be beneficial to help bring temperature down and ease aches and pains. If your child is still very young ask your doctor or pharmacist for advice, as some painkillers are not suitable for small children.
Chickenpox spots can scar so try to encourage your child to avoid scratching. If your child is still very tiny placing socks over their hands will help to stop them scratching their skin.
It is important to take in plenty of fluids if you have chickenpox to prevent dehydration. If your child is struggling to drink water try giving them a sugar-free ice lolly. This will be particularly beneficial if they have spots in their mouth.
If you are pregnant or your newborn baby develops chickenpox, you may be advised to take stronger medication such as an anti-viral medicine. This contains acyclovir and may be recommended when painkillers are not sufficiently powerful. Acyclovir may also be recommended for adults with chickenpox and people who have weak immune systems as a result of underlying health conditions.
Guest author bio
Richard is a freelance writer and you can find more information chickenpox symptoms and treatments on the Dermatologist.org.uk website. He welcomes your visit on Twitter and Google+.