Chickenpox is a contagious viral infection that causes fever and an itchy rash with spots all over the body. It is a common childhood illness in Thailand in kids under age 12.
Signs of chickenpox:
- Chickenpox often starts with headache, sore throat, or stomach ache and fever in the range of 38.3° – 38.8°C. These symptoms may last for a few days, often without any signs of a skin rash.
- The red, itchy skin rash usually starts on the belly, on the back, and the face. It then spreads to almost everywhere else on the body.
Three stages of development:
- The rash usually begins as many small red bumps that look like pimples or insect bites.
- After 2 to 4 days they then develop into thin-walled blisters filled with fluid.
- The blister walls then break, leaving open sores, which finally crust over to become dry, brown scabs.
Causes of chickenpox: Chickenpox is caused by the varicella-zoster virus (VZV). After someone has had chickenpox, the virus stays in the nervous system and can later reactivate as shingles, a painful skin rash also called herpes zoster.
Kids who are vaccinated against chickenpox are hence much less likely to develop shingles when they get older.
How to treat chickenpox?
There is no cure for chickenpox, and the virus usually clears up by itself without any treatment.
Sometimes antibiotics are needed if bacteria infect the sores. This can happen when children scratch at the blisters and dirt or bacteria get inside.
An antiviral medicine might be prescribed for children with chickenpox who are at risk for complications. Your doctor can tell you if the medicine is right for your child.
How to help my child:
- To prevent scratching, trim fingernails
- To prevent infections, try to keep the hands clean
- Put gloves on your child’s hands to avoid scratching during sleep
- Use cool wet compresses on itching areas
- Give baths in lukewarm water every 3 – 4 hours. Pat the body dry after. Don’t rub.
- If your child has blisters in the mouth give cold, soft, bland foods because chickenpox in the mouth can make it hard to drink or eat
- Ask your doctor or pharmacist about pain-relieving creams, calamine lotion, or other pain relief options like paracetamol.
What to avoid:
- Never give aspirin to children with chickenpox. It can lead to a serious illness called Reye syndrome.
- Avoid food that’s acidic or salty, like orange juice or pretzels
When to get medical help?
Most chickenpox infections don’t need special medical treatment. But you should seek medical help if your child:
- has a fever that lasts for more than 4 days
- has a severe cough or trouble breathing
- has an area of rash that leaks pus or becomes red, warm, swollen, or sore
- has a severe headache
- is very drowsy
- has trouble waking up
- has trouble looking at bright lights
- has trouble walking
- seems confused
- is vomiting
- seems very ill
- has a stiff neck
How to stop chickenpox from spreading?
Chickenpox is highly contagious from about 2 days before the rash starts until all the blisters are crusted over. After a child got infected, symptoms start showing about 2 weeks later.
A child who has it should stay home and rest until the rash is gone and all blisters have dried. This usually takes about 1 week.
Someone with shingles can spread chickenpox (but not shingles) to people who haven’t had chickenpox or the vaccine.
How to prevent chickenpox?
Vaccine is the most effective way. Doctors recommend that children get the first vaccine when they’re 12–15 months old and a booster shot when they’re 2-4 years old.
Children 13 years of age and older who have never had chickenpox and aren’t vaccinated should still get the vaccine. Children who have had chickenpox do not need the vaccine — they usually have lifelong immunity against the illness.