Is Your Child at Risk of Getting Chicken Pox
You hear the word chicken pox and the first thing that comes to mind is the itchy rashes appearing on children’s skin. While a large chunk of the affected is children, adults are not immune to this condition.
- Chickenpox is a contagious disease the affects more than 90 percent of the children
- Typical symptoms are fever, headache followed by red itchy rashes on the skin
- Treatment is not necessary in most of the cases, while anti-histamine and anti-viral medicines can make it less severe
So first thing why the name chicken pox? Do we get it from chicken? The most popular theory regarding the name is that marks on the skin as a result of the virus resembles that of peck marks of a chicken.
Another theory is that since it is a milder form of smallpox, it is not strong or brutal in nature like we use to address weak people as 'chicken-livered', hence the name Chicken Pox.
Chickenpox is a contagious infection caused by a virus named Varicella Zoster. The condition causes itchy red blisters all over the body.
It is very rare for a person to get chicken pox more than once in the lifetime. This is because once you had chicken pox; the immune system develops antibodies against the infection.
The virus stays in the body for a long time in a dormant state, but can later in life become active and appear in the form of shingles.
Chicken Pox Facts
- Chickenpox occurs worldwide and is widespread in most countries. It tends to occur irregularly, usually in winter or spring.
- There are more than 1 million cases being reported in India annually.
- Chickenpox tends to be more severe in adults than children with higher rate of complications and death
- If exposed to an infected family member, approximately 90 percent of individuals in a household who have not had chickenpox will get it
- A person can develop chickenpox within 7-21 days after contacting the virus
How do we get chicken pox?
Varicella Zoster, the chicken pox virus can enter human beings:
- Through coughing and sneezing
- Through saliva during kissing or sharing drinks
- Through direct skin to skin contact
- Unborn baby through infected pregnant mother
- Through touching contaminated surfaces such as blanket, doorknob, etc.
Who are at risk?
- Children aged under 12 years
- Adult living with children
- Those who have weak immune system due to HIV, cancer or other such conditions
- Person who is not vaccinated
- Working in school or childcare facility
- Newborn babies under 1 month old are at higher risks
Symptoms of Chicken Pox
Chickenpox becomes contagious from the first couple of days before the rashes appear and remain contagious till the blisters are dried and crusted.
Typical symptoms before rashes are -
- Loss of appetite
- General feeling of discomfort
A couple of days after experiencing the above symptoms, the classic symptoms begin to develop. This goes in three phases -
- Red or pink bumps anywhere on the body
- Bumps turn into blisters filled with fluid
- The blisters become crusty and began to heal
New bumps can appear for several days, hence one can experience three phases at the same time
How chicken pox diagnosed?
As it’s a very common disease and affects almost every person, self-diagnosis works most of the time. You can meet the doctor anytime and he will diagnose the disease by typically observing the rashes and blisters on the skin.
If there remains any doubt about the diagnosis, it can be cleared off with lab test through a blood test and culture lesion (skin sore) test. If you are pregnant and experiencing symptoms, talk to the doctor without delay.
Is there any treatment of chicken pox?
- Most people will be advised to rest and just wait and watch the red blisters healing on their own. In other words, in healthy children, chickenpox requires no medical treatment.
- Doctor may prescribe antihistamine to help relieve itching. Other home treatments such as taking lukewarm baths, topical ointments may also be advised to counter itching.
- If you develop complications, especially if you are an adult, anti-viral drugs might be prescribed. Although the medicine won’t cure chickenpox, it will lessen the impact or shorten the duration of infection and make the immune system strong enough to heal quickly.
Anti-viral medicine should be taken within 24 hours of developing rashes.
Can we prevent chicken pox?
Usually, chickenpox is not a life-threatening disease. The best way to cut the chances of the disease from happening is by giving proper vaccine to the children.
Vaccination is normally given in two phases, first when they are between 12-15 months old and the second dose between 4-6 years of age. People with 13 years and older should get two doses with at least 28 days gap in between.