Chickenpox is a highly contagious infection by the varicella-zoster virus.
It mostly affects children but adults who have never had it before can get infected too.
Chickenpox occurs all over the body in the form of itchy red blisters and rashes.
The Center for Disease Control and Prevention CDC says that the United States gets about 4 million cases of chicken pox yearly.
Learn about Chickenpox Symptoms, Causes and Treatment in this article.
The symptoms do not appear immediately.
You may experience symptoms only after 10 to 21 days of being exposed to chickenpox.
The very first sign will be itchy blisters and these symptoms can last up to 10 days.
However, you may get unwell days before the rash appears.
A day or 2 before the visible signs, you will have a fever, slight headache, be extremely fatigued, lose your appetite and have body aches.
In between the 10 to 21 days after exposure, these symptoms will appear:
- Papules – raised bumps either pink or red in color that break out in several parts of the body over time
- Vesicles- blisters filled with fluid that are small in size that form, rupture plus leak after one day
- Crusts and scabs-they appear to cover the blisters that are broken now. Healing takes a lot of time.
The symptoms progress in these three stages.
The itchy papules are spread all over the body and your body can have 250 to 500 papules at a time.
In extreme situations, you may even get them in the mouth and genitals.
After a few these skin rash turn into vesicles that pop after a day and the fluid flows out.
Later scabs cover these blisters but new bumps also keep forming at the same time.
So your body may have all three stages of symptoms at the same time in different parts of the body.
Chickenpox can spread to other people 2 days before your papules i.e. bumps appear.
It remains contagious till all your blisters have been crusted over and you only have scrabbed lesions that heal over long periods of time.
Though chickenpox may look serious, it is usually mild for children.
It is, however, different from herpes zoster.
Moreover, a vaccine is already present to prevent chickenpox.
Keep reading to find out about it later!
Causes of Chickenpox
Chickenpox is caused by the varicella-zoster virus.
You may wonder, how do you get chickenpox and how does it spread?
Well, chickenpox is highly contagious.
Direct contact with the rash can infect you.
Moroever, by inhaling the air droplets.
If the person infected coughs and sneezes and you inhale their droplets, you are bound to catch chickenpox.
You can also get infected by inhaling the particles coming from the blisters.
Furthermore, if these particles land on a surface, touching that surface can cause you chickenpox.
The virus is the most contagious for about 48 hours before the papules appear so if you feel unwell with a fever and body aches it is best to be more careful around people.
People usually get chickenpox when they have never been vaccinated.
If you get chickenpox even after you have been vaccinated, chances are you will only get a mild form of fever.
Still, there are higher chances if you have never had it before and never got a vaccine.
Children under the age of 2 are most at risk to get chickenpox.
Therefore, it is crucial for people working at schools and daycares to be vaccinated for chickenpox, otherwise, they may contract it from children.
People who have children and those who live with them also have a higher chance of getting chickenpox.
It is very rare to get chickenpox more than once. Once you have contracted it and have been vaccinated, you are immune to the virus.
However, it is not impossible but is mild with few blisters and very mild symptoms.
Still, it can develop into complications.
Chickenpox is not a serious disease. Even without the vaccine, it will get cured in 14 days.
However, like every other disease it can also lead to some complications.
But there are certain people more at risk of developing the complications than others.
These include newborns whose mothers never got the vaccine or even the chickenpox infection. That said, pregnant women can also develop complications with chickenpox.
Weak immunity due to conditions like HIV or treatments like chemotherapy makes you more susceptible to chickenpox complications.
Alongside if you take medications such as steroids for your health then you too are considered a high-risk person.
Likewise, smokers are also at the risk of developing complications.
The complications you can develop from chickenpox include dehydration and pneumonia.
This may also lead to a bacterial infection of bones, skin infections or even the bloodstream leading to sepsis.
In extreme situations, you may get toxic shock syndrome, brain inflammation and even death.
Children may develop Reye’s syndrome if given aspirin to treat chickenpox.
Chickenpox may severely affect newborn babies if their mothers got diagnosed with the infection during pregnancy.
The cold may be born with low weight and even limb abnormalities if the mother gets infected earlier in the pregnancy.
The child has a risk of contracting a serious infection if the mother gets infected a week before birth or even a few weeks after birth.
This infection can be life-threatening for the baby.
The varicella-zoster virus remains dormant in your nerve cells after healing of the scabbed lesions.
This virus can resurface years later but this time in the form of shingles.
Shingles are painful blisters in the form of clusters.
However, shingles are very painful and the pain remains even after the blister disappears.
Since shingles are most likely to occur in people over the age of 50 Shingrix is usually given to people above 50 or 60.
Chickenpox will run from 5 to 10 days and will mostly get completely cured by the 14.
Doctors can diagnose by seeing your rash but if there is some ambiguity they may run a blood test or check a lesion culture.
Children are not usually prescribed medicines for chickenpox and you are told to wait till its course finishes.
However, they may give antihistamines to ease your itchiness.
If you are a high-risk person then doctors will give you medicines to reduce the course of the infection and decrease the risks.
You will get a prescription for the antiviral drug acyclovir to reduce your symptoms. It can give a lot of betterment if given within 24 hours of when the first rash appears.
Later doses are taken five times a day for a week.
You may also be given immune globulin intravenous especially if you are pregnant or have weak immunity due to other conditions.
Your doctor may also prescribe the chickenpox vaccine, varicella vaccine, to lessen the impact of the viral infection.
Since chickenpox runs for the full course, you will eventually run for home remedies to relieve you of some symptoms.
Relieve pain through Tylenol
Tylenol can ease sores in the mouth and elsewhere. Pregnant women and children above 2 months can use it safely.
It is also effective against fever and body aches.
Anti-inflammatory drugs like ibuprofen and aspirin for children can make chickenpox worse.
In fact, aspirin can lead to Reye’s syndrome in children under 16 years old.
Stop! Don’t Scratch
You are not supposed to scratch your bumps and blisters when they itch.
We know it is very tempting but you have to keep your hand away because scratching can lead to serious bacterial infection.
If your child has chickenpox and they are not listening to you then at least make them wear gloves and cut their fingernails.
Scratching can also lead to slow healing and scarring which can remain for a long time.
You can relieve this itch by taking a cool bath soaked in uncooked oatmeal. Don’t scratch the area but pat it in the bath.
Other lifestyle changes
Eat bland and soft food when sores develop in the mouth. Apply calamine lotion by dabbing it in the rashes spots.
Use antihistamines like Benadryl to ease the need for itchiness and reduce the severity of the itchiness.
Use a damp cloth to keep yourself cool and decrease itching. Also, wear loose clothes so that heat does not aggravate this itching.
Take lots of fluids to keep yourself hydrated and this can also help get rid of the infection fast.
Avoid sugary foods and adopt a bland diet especially if you have mouth sores.
To prevent chickenpox from recurring and even occurring once, the chickenpox vaccine, Varivax is your best bet.
Two doses are recommended for the virus and it is found to be 98 percent effective in people who get both.
Children are given two doses of the vaccine with a large time gap to prevent chickenpox.
They get the first dose when they are between 12 to 15 months old and the second when they are 4 to 6 years old.
This vaccine is part of the childhood vaccination schedule and can be given alongside the vaccine for measles and mumps with the doctors’ recommendation.
Children who were not given the vaccine when young can still be given it when they get a little older.
Varivax is given to children 7 to 12 years old in two doses three weeks apart. Children above 13 years old can be given the doses four weeks apart.
Adults who are at high risks like people at hospitals, schools and daycares can get vaccinated with the doses being 28 days or even 8 weeks apart.
However, this vaccine has not been approved to use by pregnant women, people with a compromised or weakened immune system and people who have gelatin allergy as well as are allergic to antibiotic neomycin.
People are polarized when it comes to vaccines. However, it has been repeatedly proven that this vaccine for chicken is safe for children and adults.
Some mild side effects include swelling, soreness and small bumps.
The only way to permanently get rid of Chickenpox is by getting the vaccine shot.
However, medications can help ease your symptoms and give you some relief.
Chickenpox is not deadly unless it gets severe so treat yourself and your children timely.