Chickenpox

Description

Chickenpox also known as Varicella, is highly contagious infection caused by the Varicella zoster virus

Chickenpox often starts without the classic rash, with a fever, headache, sore throat, or stomachache. The rash begins as many small red bumps that look like pimples or insect bites. They appear in waves over 2 to 4 days, then develop into thin-walled blisters filled with fluid.

Symptoms of chickenpox:

Before the rash appears, there will be:

  • a general feeling of being unwell (malaise).
  • fever, which is usually worse in adults than children.
  • aching muscles.
  • loss of appetite.
  • in some cases a feeling of nausea.

After the rash appears, there will be:

  • Rash: Severity varies from a few spots to a rash that covers the whole body.
  • Spots: The spots develop in clusters and generally appear on the face, limbs, chest, and stomach. They tend to be small, red and itchy.
  • Blisters: Blisters can develop on the top of the spots. These can become very itchy.
  • Clouding: Within about 48 hours the blisters cloud over and start drying out. A crust develops.
  • Healing: Within about 10 days the crusts fall off on their own.

Treatment:

Chickenpox generally resolves within a week or two without treatment. There is no cure, but a vaccine can prevent it.

Pain or fever: Tylenol (acetaminophen),may help with symptoms of high temperature and pain. It is important to follow the instructions provided by the manufacturer. Aspirin containing products should NOT be used for chickenpox as this can lead to complications. Acetaminophen (Tylenol) can be used at any time during pregnancy.

Avoiding dehydration: It is important to drink plenty of fluids, preferably water, to  prevent dehydration. Some doctors recommend sugar-free popsicles or Pedialyte for children who are not drinking enough.

Mouth soreness: Sugar-free popsicles help ease symptoms of soreness if there are spots in the mouth. Salty or spicy foods should be avoided. If chewing is painful, soup might be a good option but it should not be too hot.

Itchiness: itchiness can become severe, but it is important to minimize scratching to reduce the risk of scarring.

The following may help prevent scratching:

  • keeping fingernails clean and as short as possible.
  • placing mittens or even socks over a child’s hands when they go to sleep, so that any attempt at scratching during the night does not cut the skin.
  • applying calamine lotion or having an oatmeal bath to reduce itching.
  • wearing loose clothing.

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