*** The first thing you need to know about Chicken Pox, is DON’T give a child aspirin or an aspirin containing product! This could trigger Reye’s Syndrome, a deadly disease for which there is no cure.
*** The second thing you need to know is DON’T participate in Chicken Pox parties! Doing so could kill your child! These are so very dangerous and parents don’t realize just how many children die from chicken pox complications every year.
*** The third thing you need to know is keep your child at home if you suspect chicken pox. Your child may only appear to have a mild case, but if you run to the store with that child and you could expose others – most horribly a pregnant mom – or another child with a fragile immune system – and there could be deadly consequences to others.
Chickenpox affects around 90 per cent of children 12 and under, and is often the first serious illness a child experiences. Chickenpox often occurs in outbreaks and there is a seasonal element with peaks in winter and early spring.
There is NO cure for Chicken Pox – including any proclaimed cure-all like “neem” or any other herbal remedy! Neem and other products like it usually contain salicylate; the active ingredient in aspirin!! So DON’T buy into any ‘quick fix’ touted by anyone on the Internet or elsewhere! This is your child’s life, talk to your doctor before you give your child anything and make sure what you give your child does not contain aspirin!
The chickenpox virus
The varicella zoster (VZ) virus causes chickenpox (varicella) and is highly infectious. It is transmitted through airborne droplets, direct contact with vesicle fluid or indirect contact with infected clothes, bedding or other items like toys. It is rare to have chickenpox more than once, the first infection with the VZ virus usually provides a lifelong immunity to further infection.
Shingles is often a by-product of Chicken Pox. After recovery from chickenpox infection, the VZ virus lies dormant in the sensory nervous system and can re-emerge as shingles (herpes zoster) in 20 per cent of adults over the age of 60, but Shingles is seen in all age groups, usually over 30.
Chicken Pox Symptoms and Diagnosis
The first symptoms of chickenpox include a low grade fever and mild flu-like symptoms. Child often feel “irritable or unsettled”. These symptoms are followed by a rash up to six days later. Over the next three to five days, crops of small spots (macules) appear. The spots tend to start behind the ears, on the face or on the trunk and then spread to other areas of the body.
After a few hours the spots become fluid filled blisters, which then develop into pustules which crust over before healing.
When chickenpox is at its peak, there are lesions in all stages of development from new spots to crusted over spots. The lesions are very itchy at all stages and the total time of affliction is around two to three weeks.
There is a large variation between children in the number of spots that occur. Some children may only have a few spots and chickenpox may not even be clinically obvious, whereas other children are completely covered.
When making a diagnosis, it is more likely that a child has chickenpox if he or she has been in contact with other children or family members who have recently had the virus. If one person in a household has chickenpox, there is a 90 per cent chance that other household members who have not had chicken pox will come down with chickenpox.
Some children feel quite unwell for a few days whereas others appear only slightly ill. Most children feel much better within a week.
The time from catching the virus to the emergence of symptoms (the incubation period) is usually 10-14 days but may be as long as 21 days. However, children are only infectious for about 48 hours before the spots begin to appear and until five to six days after the first appearance of the spots.
Chicken pox is a virus and there is no cure for it:
1. Make sure your child drinks plenty of water
2. Ask your pharmacist for advice about giving children medication if your child has a fever – NO ASPIRIN, OR ASPIRIN PRODUCT! READ THE LABEL!
3. Dress your child in light, loose fitting clothing
4. Keep your child’s fingernails clean and short to help prevent deep scratching
5. Apply a lotion to help relieve chickenpox itching – make sure this lotion does NOT contain aspirin – read the label!
6. Keep your child at home and away from others – especially pregnant women, and other fragile children and adults
Calamine lotion and creams are often used in chickenpox although there is no evidence of efficacy, but the process of evaporation does give a cooling effect. It is inexpensive but can be messy to apply.
When to See Your Doctor:
Parents of a child with chickenpox should contact their child’s doctor if the child:
1. Is under 4 weeks old
2. Has breathing difficulties
3. Has chest pains
4. Has skin blisters which become infected and look yellow and pus-filled
5. Has convulsions
6. Is unable to take fluids due to a severe rash in the mouth
7. Has a temperature above 38ºC which doesn’t respond to normal cooling down methods
8. Has vomiting, listlessness, confusion
Most children will contract chickenpox before their teens and generally it is a mild, although highly infectious disease. Management of symptoms, particularly itchy spots is key to ensure minimum discomfort for the infected child. If you use a caregiver while the child is home sick, please be sure they, too, understand NOT to give the child aspirin, or any aspirin containing product.