Chickenpox is a common childhood illness caused by varicella zoster virus. This is the same virus that causes shingles later in life.
Chickenpox causes an itching blistering rash. A few days before the first spots appear the person may feel feverish with a sore throat and headache. It is
very easy to catch by coughing and sneezing, and by direct contact with the blistering rash. It takes about 10-21 days for the symptoms to appear after contact with a person with chickenpox. Most cases of chickenpox in children are mild and they recover completely. Sometimes scarring from the spots occurs. Chickenpox can sometimes cause serious complications, which may require a hospital stay or intensive care.
Your children need to see a Doctor if they have a high fever or are very ill, particularly if they become very drowsy, or are breathing fast or vomiting a lot. More severe illness tends to occur in certain groups who have reduced immunity- such as pregnant women, newborns, long term oral steroid use, and chemotherapy patients.
Children with chickenpox need to stay home from school and daycare. A child is infectious 1-2 days before they get the rash until all the blisters have dried up (usually around 5-7 days). Children with chickenpox can be cared for at home. Make sure your child drinks plenty of water. You can use a soothing lotion such as fatty cream or alphakeri. Trim nails short and try to avoid scratching, which may lead to secondary infection of the spots. A cool or lukewarm bath may help, but avoid soap and pat the skin dry. Adding ground oatmeal or baking soda can help make the bath more soothing. Paracetamol can help with fever or headache. Aspirin should not be given to children under 16 years as it can be associated with a serious, rare illness called Reye’s syndrome. Vaccination is effective at preventing chickenpox. Children can be given the vaccine given from 9 months of age. Chickenpox vaccine can also be given to people within 3-5 days of exposure to chickenpox and may help prevent getting the disease or should make it milder. There is a cost for vaccination. Talk to your GP or practice nurse.