What is chickenpox?
Chickenpox is a very infectious illness of childhood caused by the varicella virus. It has an incubation period of 10-21 days and is spread by direct contact with infected secretions and through the air when infected persons cough or sneeze. Infected persons may spread the disease before they know that they have the disease—even before the rash develops, and remain infectious until all the lesions are crusted over. Once a person has had the disease there is life long protection from Chickenpox.
The chickenpox begins with cold like symptoms and fever followed by its characteristic itchy rash which appears in crops over several days. They appear as red bumps that turn into blisters that cover the head and body more than the limbs. These then form crusts which eventually heal with little scarring. There may be as many as 300-500 blisters during a single infection. Children are not to return to school until all lesions are crusted over. Duration is usually 2-3 weeks.
While young children usually recover quickly and with little complications, there may be serious and deadly complications:
- Children infected with varicella may develop severe pneumonia (infection of the lungs) or encephalitis (infection of the brain).
- A germ called Group A streptococcus, commonly known as "flesh-eating" bacteria, can enter through the skin during a varicella infection, and cause severe and sometimes fatal disease
- Pregnant women infected with varicella may deliver children with birth defects. These birth defects include brain damage, mental retardation, shortened or atrophied limbs, damage to the eye and skin scarring.
- Varicella may later predispose the infected child to Shingles-a very uncomfortable and painful disease, for which there is no cure.
Let us not forget the time lost at school and at work for the parent, (at least 2 weeks), and the fact that when the child is better the parent may lose more time after catching the disease.
Prevention is the best treatment.
Symptomatic treatment with topical anti-itch lotions eg calamine lotion and oral antihistamines may help. It is very important to maintain good hygiene cleansing the skin daily. Acetaminophen containing drugs may be used for fever control. DRUGS CONTAINING ASPIRIN SHOULD NEVER BE USED WITH CHICKENPOX AS POTENTIALLY DEADLY SIDE EFFECTS MAY OCCUR.
Antiviral drugs, if started within 24 hours of the appearance of the rash, may help to shorten the course and decrease the number of lesions.
The varicella vaccine is given to prevent chickenpox and the severe, and occasionally fatal, consequences of chickenpox. One dose of the, vaccine is presently given to children between 12 and 15 months (some countries repeat a dose again between 4 and 6 years of age). For previously ￼ ￼www.Kidz Klinik.com unimmunized adolescents (13 to 18 years old) or adults, the vaccine is given as a series of two shots, separated by four to eight weeks.
If given early following exposure (24-48 Hours) the vaccine MAY help to prevent the disease in young children. There is however no guarantee.
Pain and swelling at the injection site as well as a rash that looks like a mild case of the disease but which is usually sterile.