All about chickenpox

By March 23, 2016Blog

Chickenpox animationChickenpox was once a very common childhood illness. However, due to the effectiveness of modern vaccinations, fewer than 200,000 children are diagnosed with it each year. The vaccine, administered at 12 to 15 months, and a booster at age 4 to 6, prevents 99% of chickenpox cases. Here are the basics.

What are the symptoms of chicken pox?

Caused by the varicella-zoster virus (VZV), it’s best described as flu-like symptoms accompanied by a very distinct rash. It takes the disease 10 – 21 days to incubate after initial exposure, and lasts anywhere from 5 – 10 days. Symptoms include:

    • Headache
    • Loss of appetite
    • Fever
    • Fatigue
    • General feeling of being unwell
  • Rash

There are three stages to the rash that comes with chickenpox:

    1. Small red bumps that can occur over several days
    1. The bumps then turn into blisters that are full of fluid, which will break on their own. This process usually takes a day.
  1. The blisters that have burst will then scab or crust over. These take several days to heal.

It’s important to know that a person may have all three stages of the rash present at one time, as the bumps continue to develop over the course of several days. A person is contagious until all of the bumps have burst and scabbed over, so it’s important to wait until new bumps stop forming before determining if they are no longer contagious.

How do I treat it?

In healthy children, chickenpox is typically very mild. You’ll want to contact your doctor, just to get a confirmation on the diagnosis. Make sure you let the office know that you suspect it’s chickenpox. It is very contagious, so they’ll want to have a clear waiting room before you come in. Typically, the disease is allowed to run its course. You can treat the itching by using an over the counter antihistamine and oatmeal baths (make sure your bathtub is clean first – that way any open wounds aren’t contaminated by bacteria in the tub).

If the chickenpox is especially severe, medications to lessen the symptoms may be required – such as a prescription itch cream or an antiviral to shorten the duration/severity. Your doctor will also check for several red flags, including:

    • If the rash has spread to the eyes
    • If the rash is tender, warm, or very red (this is indicative of a secondary infection)
    • If there is any “dizziness, disorientation, rapid heartbeat, shortness of breath, tremors, loss of muscle coordination, worsening cough, vomiting, stiff neck or a fever higher than 102 F (38.9 C)”.
  • If there is anyone with immune deficiencies or under 6 months old in the house.

If you suspect that you or your child has chickenpox, come see us at the urgent care! We can make sure there aren’t any red flags, and we’ll have you feeling better in no time.