Chickenpox is an infection caused by the varicella-zoster virus. Though it is common in children (especially under the age of 10), it can be prevented with vaccines. Children who contract chickenpox may experience some discomfort, but in adults, it can be quite bad, and can create severe complications. Chickenpox can also be quite serious in children with weakened immunity.

Treatment is available for symptomatic relief only; since it is caused by a virus, antibiotics are not effective against the disease.

Chickenpox symptoms in Kids

The symptoms of chickenpox may include but are not necessarily limited to the following:

  • Fever, body ache and discomfort.
  • Eruption of red rashes in different parts of the body, including the scalp. These rashes are usually itchy. They start out flat, but develop into blisters filled with water. They may dry up within 4 to 5 days and form scabs. Some children may have only a few rashes, others can have hundreds.
  • Loss of appetite, headache, and nausea.

How Chickenpox Spreads

Chickenpox is highly contagious; usually, rashes start appearing only a couple of days, so a child may already be a carrier, and spread the virus to others without realizing it. An infected child can continue to spread the disease till all of the rashes have scabbed. The virus enters the body through the nose or mouth. Once you have had contact with an infected person or child, it may take about 2 to 3 weeks to develop.

The virus spreads through the air and is capable of surviving for quite some time. Merely being in the same room as an infected person, or being in a place for over 15 minutes where an infected person has been, can cause the virus to enter your system.

It can also spread through direct contact – like touching the blister, or the liquid inside it.

Expectant mothers can pass it on to their unborn babies, and mothers can pass on chickenpox to newborn babies as well.

Possible Complications

If the child scratches too vigorously, the skin can get infected with germs and become sore. Topical antibiotics may be required to soothe and heal the skin.

Other complications which are very rare:

  • Reye’s Syndrome which affects the brain and liver; can occur with ingestion of aspirin during chickenpox
  • Myocarditis, or inflammation of the muscles of the heart
  • Appendicitis
  • Inflammation of the kidneys
  • Pancreatitis
  • Inflammation of the eyes, joints or testes
  • Muscular coordination problems – ataxia
  • Unborn babies who get chickenpox from their mothers may be born with scars, eye problems, improperly formed limbs, and so on.
  • Chickenpox in people with weak immunity can be life-threatening.

Though these are unlikely, you need to take your child to a doctor immediately if you notice the following symptoms during or just after chickenpox:

  • Weakness
  • Drowsiness
  • Dizziness
  • Inability to drink
  • Breathing difficulties
  • Aches and pains which don’t subside with medication
  • Convulsions or seizures
  • A nasty rash, or one that bleeds into the skin
  • Becoming increasingly unwell in general

Chickenpox stages are – onset of high fever and a feeling of discomfort, appearance of flat rashes in 2 -3 days, development into water filled blisters, drying up and scabbing in 4-5 days. It takes about a week or two at the maximum for the child to become asymptomatic.

Treatment for Chickenpox

When the varicella-zoster virus infects the body, the immune system starts making antibodies to fight it and keep the body safe. These antibodies remember the virus, and are always ready to fight them, providing lifelong immunity from the disease. As the disease is caused by a virus, there is no medication available. Only symptomatic relief can be provided, while the body works to create antibodies.

  • Medicines like paracetamol may be provided to keep the temperature down
  • Soothing ointments to cool and heal the skin
  • Anti-histamines to reduce itchiness and help the child sleep
  • The doctor may prescribe anti-viral in certain cases

Home Remedies

  • It is important to keep your child comfortable and calm their anxiety.
  • Dress them in loose, comfortable and if possible, natural fabrics, and have the air conditioner or fan on to regulate the room temperature – but make sure it’s not too cold.
  • Make sure the child gets plenty of rest, and does not mingle with others, so as to prevent spreading infection.
  • Encourage your child to drink plenty of fluids, as dehydration is an all too common side effect of most diseases in children. give them fresh juice, hot soups, and plenty of good old water. Avoid giving oily, spicy or high-sugar foods; keep it bland and light, and easy to digest.
  • Stop them from scratching a lot. You can sponge them down to offer relief, but don’t use cold water – let it be at room temperature.
  • You can try an oatmeal bath: crush oatmeal into lukewarm water and let your child soak in it for 10-15 minutes.
  • You can apply herbs like neem, aloe vera, or jojoba; you can also try applying baking soda on unbroken skin to ease the itching.

The best cure is prevention! You can protect your child from getting chickenpox and suffering all this by simply giving them the chicken pox vaccine. Have you vaccinated your child yet?