Chickenpox, also known as varicella, is a viral infection that causes itchy red spots all over the body and flu-like symptoms. While it was a common illness among children under the age of 12, chickenpox cases have declined since the introduction of the varicella vaccine in 1990s.
What are the symptoms of chickenpox?
According to Kids Health, the infectious disease usually starts with a high fever (which is in the 38.3°–38.8°C range), headache, sore throat, or stomachache. These are then followed by an itchy rash, which usually starts on the abdomen or back and face, then spreads to almost everywhere else on the body. This includes the scalp, mouth, arms, legs, and genitals. Moreover, the rash may spread wider or be more severe in kids who have weak immune systems or skin disorders like eczema.
As Healthline explains, The rash goes through three phases before you recover:
- Red or pink bumps appear all over the body.
- The bumps become blisters filled with fluid that leaks.
- The bumps become crusty, scab over, and begin to heal
While doctors may prescribe antihistamine medications or topical ointments to soothe the rash’s itchiness, parents can also try giving their child lukewarm baths. Unscented lotion, lightweight as well as soft clothing may help, too.
What causes chickenpox?
For the uninitiated, chickenpox is caused by the varicella-zoster virus (VZV). The highly contagious virus can spread easily through the air (when a person with the virus coughs or sneezes) and direct contact with mucus, saliva, or fluid from the blisters. Besides that, the illness is contagious from about 2 days before the rash starts until all the blisters are crusted over. So if a child has chickenpox, he or she should stay home and recover until the rash is gone and all blisters have dried.
Although chickenpox will probably only happen once in a lifetime, your child could get a related disease called shingles (herpes zoster) later in life. This is because after a person has chickenpox, the varicella zoster virus remains dormant (sleeping) in the nervous system. When the virus reactivates, it becomes the shingles.
How can you prevent it?
It’s important to get your child vaccinated as the chickenpox vaccine is 99% effective at preventing the infection in kids. Doctors recommend that kids get the chickenpox vaccine as twice – once when they’re 12 to 15 months old, followed by a booster shot when they’re 4 to 6 years old.
On top of that, there is now a vaccine for shingles that’s recommended for adults age 60 and older.