This is a common childhood infection caused by a virus called varicella. It spreads from one person to another in the air (infected secretions in small droplets) or by skin contact.The disease begins usually two weeks after exposure. The child will have a rash with few or many small red bumps which form blisters or sores, then dry brown crusts. Many of these lesions appear at the same time and follow each other over four to five days. The rash can be anywhere on the body including the mouth and vaginal area. Fever is usually present and can be in the range of 102 to 103 degrees. The child may be itchy and lose appetite. New bumps stop appearing and all the lesions become crusted in 7-10 days. At this point, the child is no longer contagious.
Chicken pox may leave permanent marks or scars if the lesions were infected (impetigo) or the child picks on the scabs. Temporary skin marks fade over a period of six to twelve months.
Call the doctor if the child:
- Is confused or listless
- Has imbalance sitting or walking
- Has neck stiffness
- Appears very ill
- Has large blisters
- Has pus in the blisters
Care At Home:
Cut the child's nails short to avoid bacterial infection in the blisters.
A lukewarm bath can help reduce itching and fever.
Application of calamine lotion may reduce itching.
An antihistamine taken by mouth, such as Benadryl (over the-counter) will reduce or eliminate itching.
Acetaminophen (for example Tylenol) will reduce fever.
Avoid citrus fruits and juice if mouth sores are sensitive.
A local anesthetic such as Xylocaine Ointment (over the counter) applied to the vaginal area will relieve pain in urination which may be caused by chicken pox lesions in the area.
Avoid ASPIRIN during chicken pox because of the possible link to Reye's Syndrome, a serious illness.
TREATMENT AND PREVENTION:
Most children do not require any treatment other than that for fever and itching. Under certain circumstances such as cancer patients on chemotherapy , or severe chickenpox,Acyclovir (Zovirax) may be prescribed. This is an antiviral drug used specifically to treat chicken pox. It is not recommended for routine use in mild cases. If the child is known to have a condition which predisposes to severe chicken pox (such as cancer,AIDS, etc.) you should inform his/her physician as soon as possible if he/she is exposed to chicken pox. Your child may need a specific chicken pox immunoglobin injection for protection (not regular IGG). If the child receives salicylates (such as aspirin) and is exposed to chicken pox, you should inform the physician quickly. Reye's Syndrome may occur if the child has chickenpox while receiving salicylates.
A vaccine is now availabe for immunization of children as early as 1 years old . Side effects are mild,such as pain, redness at the site of injection. A very mild rash may develop in small number of children at the site of injection or the rest of the body
Your child should stay home until all the sores are crusted over (7-10 days), but you do not have to wait until all the scabs fall off.