Chickenpox is a common infection among children that spreads from person to person. This condition causes a very itchy rash all over the body. You can treat chicken pox at home in most cases, and the rash usually clears in a week or two. However, in some cases, an old infection can reappear as shingles in older adults.
Chickenpox is generally mild in healthy children, and it causes a few symptoms before the rash starts, such as:.
- Lack of appetite.
- A general feeling of discomfort.
The itchy rash, which is the main symptom, starts one or two days after the above symptoms. It begins with red bumps that then become swellings that are filled with fluid. Finally, the rash dries out and forms a hard covering on the skin before it starts to heal. The rash may cover the whole body in severe cases, including the eye lids, nose, mouth and throat.
A virus called varicella zoster causes chickenpox. This virus spreads fast from person to person by breathing in particles or touching surfaces contaminated with this organism. You may not notice any symptoms until 10-21 days after contact with an affected person.
Certain factors increase your risk of developing chickenpox. They include:
- Age: chickenpox affects children more, especially those that are below 2 years old.
- Not vaccinated: those who are yet to be vaccinated are at a higher risk of getting the disease.
- Never had chickenpox: your chances increase if you have never had chickenpox before. This is because it is rare for those that had the disease to have it again.
- Contact with an infected person: if you recently had contact with a person who has chickenpox, there is a chance it has spread to you too. Therefore, it is essential to isolate those with the disease. Wipe surfaces, clean clothes and beddings thoroughly to avoid spreading the infection to other people in the house.
- Live with children: since children are more likely to catch this virus, they can infect those that live with them or play with them during the infectious period.
- Work with children: people like nurses, teachers and daycare workers are more likely to get this virus because of the various children they encounter daily. People in this group should get the vaccine. Schools and day care centres should send sick children home till they get better.
- Weakened immune system: diseases such as diabetes, HIV and cancer affect your body’s defence system. This makes it easier for you to be infected.
Although most cases of chickenpox can be treated at home and are mild. See your healthcare provider if you:
- Notice redness, pain and warmth at the site of the rash.
- Have a rash in your eyes.
- Feel dizzy, breathless or confused.
- Can’t control your arms or legs.
- Experience tremors, stiffness, fast heartbeat or your temperature is more than 390 C.
- Have low immunity due to a condition or medications.
There are several things you can do to avoid chickenpox, For example:
- Get vaccinated. Children in Nigeria are not given the varicella vaccine as part of regular immunization. Still, but you can get it for a fee in private clinics. The vaccine is safe and effective, but pregnant women and people with tuberculosis or low immunity should not take this vaccine.
- Sick children should not come to school. Keep children at home when they are ill, and if they have chickenpox, they should stay at home for two weeks or until all the rash has dried.
- Avoid contact with people with chickenpox.
- Wash your hand frequently and avoid touching surfaces that may be contaminated.
- Thoroughly clean the beddings and clothes of people with chickenpox before reusing them. Avoid touching the rash and tell other members of your household, especially children, not to. Do not share clothes, spoons or other utensils with those infected.
- Keep your child at home for the entire period until the rash becomes dry. This will reduce the number of people exposed to and reduce their risk of spreading the disease.
- Keep your clothes light and soft. Avoid tight or heavy clothing, as they can worsen the itch and make you uncomfortable.
- Avoid using hot water to bathe your child, as it’ll dry the skin and make the itch worse. Use lukewarm water instead.
- Ointments like calamine lotion and drugs like piriton or loratadine will relieve the itch.
- You can relieve the fever by using painkillers such as paracetamol.
- Do not scratch the rash. Scratching can cause scars or infection. Trim your nails and that of your child to prevent injuries due to scratching.
- Drink plenty of water.
- Your healthcare provider may recommend antiviral medicine to prevent the severe form of the disease. This drug is not a cure, and it is giving to people at risk of severe illness. People at risk of severe illness include pregnant women, children less than 4 weeks old, smokers, people living with HIV and people who are being treated for cancer.
- People belonging to the above groups may also get an immunoglobulin injection following exposure to an infected person. You can only get this shot before the symptoms of chickenpox appear.
Chickenpox is a well-known condition. Most children with chickenpox get well without medical care. The best way to protect yourself is to get immunized against this virus and encourage those around you to do the same.