Chicken pox

What is it?

Chickenpox is a viral illness that generally starts with a fever. There are multiple small, red bumps on the skin that become thin-walled blisters filled with water. These become cloudy blisters or open sores and finally dry up with brown crusts (all within 24 hours). There are repeated crops of these sores for 4 to 5 days. The rash is on all body surfaces, but usually starts on the head and back. Some sores may be in the mouth, eyelids or genital area. There may be an exposure to a case of chickenpox 2-3 weeks earlier.

What are the causes?

Chickenpox is caused by a highly contagious virus known as varicella-zoster virus. The varicella virus belongs to the Herpes group of viruses.

What are the symptoms?

Chicken pox starts with a mild fever. This is followed in a day or two by a rash that can be very itchy. The rash begins with red spots on the scalp and body that soon turn into fluid-filled blisters. New blisters may form on the face, arms and legs during the next few days. The blisters appear as crops and are described as ‘dew drops on a rose petal’ due to a red base and a water filled centre. Crusts form over the blisters. The rash may take 2-3 weeks to disappear depending on the severity of the rash.Other symptoms of chicken pox are chills, loss of appetite and headaches.

Seek professional help?

Consult the doctor immediately if some chickenpox sores look infected (yellow pus, spreading redness, red streaks), the child looks very sick, or fever lasts more than 4 days, or the itching is severe and doesn't respond to treatment.

What is the treatment?

The treatment for skin discomfort and itching is a cool bath every 3 to 4 hours for the first few days. Add 4 tablespoons of baking soda per tub of water. Bath water does not spread chickenpox. Calamine lotion can be applied on the itchy areas. The itchy areas can be massaged with an ice cube. Paracetamol may be given in the dose appropriate for the child's age for fever over 102°F (39°C). Do NOT give aspirin to children and adolescents with chickenpox because of the risk of Reye's syndrome, a neurological illness. Since chickenpox sores also occur in the mouth and throat, the child may be picky about eating. Encourage the child to drink cold fluids. For infants, use a cup rather than a bottle because the nipple can cause pain. A soft, bland diet, avoiding salty foods and citrus fruits is good.If urination becomes very painful due to sores in the genital area, apply 5% Xylocaine ointment to the genital ulcers every 4 hours for pain relief.Acyclovir is an expensive, oral anti-viral drug that can be used to treat chickenpox. It helps only if it is started within 24 hours of the appearance of the first sores. It may reduce the number of sores and the duration of illness. The complications are not reduced. Some doctors prescribe acyclovir for adults and older students. It may also be prescribed for younger children having social obligations (such as travel). Most doctors do not treat normal, healthy children with acyclovir.

What are the prevention?

A chickenpox vaccine is available that is recommended for all children who haven't had chickenpox. It is given at any time after 12 months of age.

Monica Mahajan#/doctor/monica-mahajan-108759#108759#Entity

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