Written by: Cally Worden
This common childhood disease is experienced by most little ones at some point. There is now a vaccine available, but it is not widely administered as the symptoms of the illness are generally very mild. Chickenpox manifests as a rash of itchy red spots, that eventually turn into blisters filled with fluid. The blisters then dry out and crust over with scabs that finally fall off, signalling the end of the illness.
The disease can be mild, with some children having just a few spots, or more severe with spots appearing all over the body. The spots typically appear on the arms, legs, chest and tummy, ears, face and scalp. It is highly contagious, spreading mainly through coughs and sneezes from an infected person. A sufferer is contagious from 1 or 2 days before the rash first appears, until the last spot crusts over. Because you don’t know you have the disease initially, an outbreak of Chickenpox spreads very quickly and easily.
What you Can Do
While it’s impossible to totally prevent the spread of the infection, you can help your child avoid contracting it by keeping them away from places where you know the disease is present. If your child has Chickenpox it is wise to keep them home until they are no longer contagious. Newborn babies, pregnant women, and anyone with a weakened immune system are particularly at risk from the infection, where it can cause serious complications.
How to Treat it
Although it is not considered a serious illness in most cases, children who have Chickenpox can feel irritable, uncomfortable, and pretty miserable. The best treatments are ones that help alleviate the itchiness and slight fever that can accompany the rash. Recommended treatments to use, and things to avoid, include:
- Paracetamol – to help reduce fever
- Calamine lotion or cooling gels – to help ease the itching
- Drinks and Low-Sugar ice lollies – help to keep your child hydrated, and can ease pain if spots have sprung up inside the mouth
- Avoid – serving salty foods, or anything too hot
- Chlorphenamine – suitable for most children over 1 year old this is a stronger anti-itch medicine available from the chemist over the counter – ask their advice – or by prescription from your GP
- Dress in the right clothes – any fabrics that are loose and not too hot or cold are best
- Avoid sponging down in cool water – this can make your child too cold
- NEVER give your child aspirin if you suspect they have Chickenpox – it can lead to the development of the potentially fatal Reye’s Syndrome
- A bath in a gentle solution of Bicarbonate of Soda – this can help ease the itching
- Piriton – this antihistamine can help with the itching
Chickenpox is no fun for kids to have, but the varicella virus that causes it can cause even more misery if contracted for the first time as an adult. It is for this reason that many parents prefer to allow their children to contract the illness, to get it out of the way. As with all such illnesses there are a minority of those who catch it who will suffer an extreme reaction, but Chickenpox is generally considered to be a mild, and non-threatening condition. If you are uncertain if your child has it, or feel concerned at all about the disease then do talk to your GP for advice.