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Chickenpox- Once A Rite of Passage Now Almost Non-existent

Medikoe Health Expert

Medikoe Health Expert

  Koramangala, bengaluru, karnataka, india, Bengaluru     Feb 9, 2017

   5 min     



Chickenpox is a common illness that is usually seen in children below 12 years old. Though it can be seen in adults too; usually during pregnancy or if their immune system has been weakened.

Chickenpox is caused by the varicella virus. There was a time when it used to be a very common disease, but with the help of varicella vaccine developed in the 1990’s it is now listed under ‘rare diseases.’

It is important to get your child vaccinated for varicella when he or she is 12-15 months old, and follow it with a booster between 4-6 years old. But keep in mind that vaccination doesn’t mean that your child is at zero risks from contracting chickenpox.

Causes of Chickenpox

Chickenpox is caused by a virus known as Varicella zoster virus (VZV). Most people who have had the disease had received it through contact. The virus usually spreads in the initial days after a child is infected. During these days, the rashes or blisters haven’t yet appeared, but it is advisable to quarantine the person until all blisters have crusted over.

The virus spreads through saliva, cough droplets, sneezing, or if a person comes in contact with fluid released from the blisters of the infected person.

Even after your initial contraction of chickenpox, the varicella virus remains at a dormant stage in your body. This virus later reactivates after years and manifests as a skin condition called shingles.

Signs and Symptoms of Chickenpox

Chickenpox is characterized by the appearance of itchy rashes, but a child will have been affected about 1-3 weeks before the rashes begin to appear. It is contagious until 48 hours before the first rash appears.

Before the rash appears the child infected with VZV may show symptoms such as fever, headache, loss of appetite, fatigue, and a few flu-like symptoms.

These symptoms are then followed by the appearance of the rash. These rashes go through three different stages, after which the child usually recovers.

  • In the first phase, the child develops painful pink bumps all over the body

  • Then this is followed by the appearance of painful blisters that release yellowish fluid. If the blisters release greenish discharge, then it means the child has a bacterial infection.

  • The blisters are then replaced with scabs that are crusty, which eventually fall off as you heal.

Before the scabby crusts appear, the rashes seem very itchy. These bumps appear at different times, therefore all of it won’t be at the same phase.

It takes a week or two for the rashes to disappear completely.

Risk Factors of Chickenpox

Since chickenpox is a contagious disease, about anyone and everyone ould is at the risk of being infected. Before the development of the varicella vaccine, being infected was almost like a childhood rite of passage.

Besides vaccination, immunity can be passed from mother to her newborn, This immunity lasts up to three months after birth.

People are under the risk of being infected if the person,

  • Had been in contact with an infected person

  • Is below 12 years old

  • Lives among a lot of children

  • Has spent time in a child-care facility

  • Has weakened immune system due to illness or medication.

  • Has chronic skin or lung disease

Diagnosis of Chickenpox

It is wise to contact your doctor when you see rashes appearing on your body, especially of these rashes are accompanied by fever and cold. The disease is easily diagnosed by performing a physical examination of the body and the blisters on it.

Besides that lab tests can help figure out the cause of unexplained blisters.

Possible complications of Chickenpox

A person with chickenpox usually recovers within two to three weeks, but in rare cases, certain complications could occur. These complications usually occur to infants, adults, pregnant women or people with weak immune systems due to being infected with HIV, having undergone a transplant or are under immunosuppressive medications. 

Possible complications include,

  • Pneumonia

  • Encephalitis

  • Uncontrolled bleeding and haemorrhaging

  • Infections in the blood

  • Dehydration

  • Bacterial infection on skin and soft tissues

  • In rare cases, the patient may need to be hospitalized and may even result in death.

Since the administration of vaccines, the deaths caused due to chickenpox have become very rare. Although deaths occur in case of unvaccinated kids or adults who were infected from unvaccinated kids.

Prevention of Chickenpox

Chickenpox is a contagious disease, that usually occurs in children. The best way to prevent your child from getting the disease by getting vaccinated on time. Everyone who hasn’t bee vaccinated or hasn’t contracted chickenpox must get doses of the vaccine.

Chances of a person contracting chickenpox after being vaccinated is very rare. And should they ever contract the disease, then the symptoms will be very mild.

Treatments of Chickenpox

Once you’re diagnosed with chickenpox, the patient can try the following at home to prevent discomfort.

Since you’ll have the constant urge to itch, apply calamine lotion and prepare a cool bath with baking soda, or apply uncooked or colloidal oatmeal cream.

It would be wise to keep your fingernails trimmed, otherwise, skin infections could occur if you scratch the blisters. Try resisting the urge to itch as much as possible, coz not only does this cause skin infections but also might aid in the spread of the virus and  cause potential bacterial infections

Always go to the doctor if the patient,

  • Is unvaccinated and has contracted the disease for the first time,

  • Is pregnant

  • Has a weak immune system due to being infected with aids, having undergone a recent transplant, or is on chemotherapy, immunosuppressants, or has been using steroids for a long time.

When the patient’s symptom progress it could cause various other complications. 

So always visit a doctor, if the patient 

  • Has a fever after four days of being infected or if it rises above 38.9°C
  • Has blisters  that start leaking greenish fluid, or pus as this suggests possible bacterial infections
  • Experiences difficulty in waking up, walking, or breathing
  • Has a stiff neck, severe cough, abdominal pain, and is frequently vomiting
  • Has rashes that bleed

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Tags:  Diagnostic Tests & Results,Child Care,skin care,skin,pregnancy,Chickenpox

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