Chickenpox is a highly infectious disease mainly of children under 10 years old, though it may occur at any age. The virus called Varicella Zoster causes it. Chickenpox outbreaks often follow a seasonal pattern with the most common months being from March to May.
It is characterized by a temperature and a rash of red itchy spots that turn into fluid-filled blisters. They then crust over to form scabs, which eventually drop off. Some children only have a few spots, but other children can have spots that cover their entire body mainly on their face and trunk but can be in scalp, ears and genitals.
The virus stays dormant within the nervous system until occasionally in later life, it can be reactivated and cause shingles – a painful blistering condition.
CAN YOU PREVENT CHICKENPOX?
The Chickenpox vaccine is available privately, at our Harley Street and Aberdeen Clinic for children over 1 year old.
The chickenpox vaccination has been part of the American childhood vaccination schedule for some time, the UK vaccination committee do not currently recommend routine childhood vaccination against chickenpox.
ONCE YOUR CHILD HAS CHICKENPOX, HOW DO YOU STOP IT SPREADING?
- Keep children off nursery or school until all their spots have crusted over;
- Try to keep children away from public areas to avoid contact with people who may not have had chickenpox e.g. Newborn babies, pregnant women and anyone with a weakened immune system e.g. Cancer treatment.
Although chickenpox in children is considered a mild illness, your child will probably feel pretty miserable and irritable while they have it.
What to do when your child has chickenpox:
- Use painkillers – only if they are in pain or have a fever, you can give them Paracetamol. Do not given Ibuprofen as this can cause unusual skin reactions during chickenpox.
- Avoid dehydration – if they have a sore mouth, sucking on ice lollies will help soothe as well as hydrate them. Avoid salty or acidic foods if their mouths are sore.
- Stop the scratching to avoid future scarring – cut fingernails very short, put gloves on at night (or socks over hands) to prevent scratching in their sleep. Calamine lotion helps if dabbed onto the spots with cotton wool, or Eurax cream.
WHEN TO SEE A DOCTOR IF YOUR CHILD HAS CHICKENPOX:
Occasionally children can become more seriously ill with chickenpox and need to see a doctor, so contact your GP straight away if your child develops any of the following:
- The blisters on their skin become infected;
- They have a pain in their chest or difficulty breathing;
- On-going fever with new blisters still forming 6 days after the first spots appeared.