This information is about chicken pox. You’ll learn what chicken pox is, the symptoms of chicken pox and how to treat chicken pox.
Chicken pox is a virus infection that afflicts mainly children. There is now a vaccine available to prevent this infection. If your child has not already had thechicken pox, you can have your child immunized after 12 months of age. Children less than 13 years of age need one dose of the vaccine while teenagers and adults require two doses given 4 to 6 weeks apart.
There is no way to treat the disease itself. However, the symptoms and discomfort can be treated.
The symptoms of chicken pox generally develop about two to three weeks after exposure to the disease. The first symptoms are usually tiredness, loss of appetite, and a low fever — though in some children, the fever may go as high as 104 degrees.
A day or two later, a red, bumpy rash appears. (In some children, this rash may be the first evidence of illness.) In a matter of hours, the bumps — or “pox,” as they are called — gradually turn into tiny blisters. These blisters then break and form a crust, or scab.
The pox are more abundant on areas of the body usually covered by clothing. They usually start on the neck, back, and chest; then over the next few days, they spread to the arms, legs, and face. The pox may also appear on the mouth, throat, nose, scalp, vagina, and penis. Several stages of the rash may be seen at once, since the pox continue to appear in crops, for about four days. Some children may have only a few pox, while others may have hundreds.
The fever may last up to four days and the blisters usually last a week. Your child is contagious from two days before the rash appears until the last blisters have become crusted. This usually takes seven to ten days.
You can’t treat chicken pox, but you can help your child feel more comfortable. The worst problem is itching. To relieve it, give your child baking soda or cornstarch baths, up to three times a day. Dissolve half a cup of baking soda or a quarter cup of cornstarch in a tub of warm water. Aveeno Oatmeal soap baths may also be used. Bathe the child at least once a day to clean the skin and prevent infection. Avoid excessive soap, which can increase itching and dry the skin.
Calamine lotion applied to the rash may reduce itching. Also, your health care provider may recommend Benadryl, taken by mouth, which is soothing.
Don’t let your child scratch the scabs, which can cause infection and lead to scarring. Keep your child’s fingernails short and wash the child’s hands several times a day with soap, to help avoid infection.
If your child has painful sores in the mouth, cold, non-carbonated liquids may be soothing. The child may not wish to eat, but encourage drinking clear liquids, to avoid dehydration.
A child with chicken pox doesn’t usually need medical attention, but if itching and fever are not relieved, contact your child’s health care provider.
If your child is irritable with a high fever, use an aspirin-free product such as acetaminophen to reduce fever. Do not give aspirin to children under 18 years of age. Aspirin may increase the chance of developing a serious illness called Reye’s Syndrome, which may occur after the child has had chicken pox or flu. To help keep your child comfortable, you can also use light clothing, lower the room temperature, and bathe the child with lukewarm water.
However, if your child has had convulsions due to fever, you should try hard to keep the fever under 100 degrees. Give fever-reducing medicine, following label directions or as your pediatrician has recommended.
It’s not necessary to keep your child in bed, but keep the child away from school and away from other children until the last pox have dried, or for one week after the rash appeared.
Please remember these key points:
- The key symptom of chicken pox is a red, bumpy rash that turns to blisters.
- Treat chicken pox symptoms by using baking soda baths and calamine lotion to reduce itching and non-aspirin pain reliever for fever.
- Keep your child at home for at least seven days after the rash appears.
- Do not give aspirin to children under 18 years of age.