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Key Information About Chickenpox

Updated on May 8, 2019
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Srikanth is passionate about helping people improve their quality of life.

Overview

Chickenpox is also known as varicella. It is caused by the varicella zoster virus. It causes an itchy rash with small, fluid-filled blisters.

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Causes

Chickenpox is caused by varicella zoster, which is one of eight herpesviruses known to infect humans. It is also known as human alphaherpesvirus 3.

Chickenpox spreads by closeness and contact with an infected person. The virus can spread through saliva, coughing, sneezing and contact with fluid from the blisters.

It was an agonising week, most of which I spent in a daze.

The cycle would start with chills, my whole body shaking uncontrollably as the fever rose steadily to 40 degrees Celsius, and there was nothing I could do to stop it.

My whole body was on fire, my tongue so dry it stuck to my palate, my head pounded like an orchestra and the itch, oh the itch! My fingers would absolutely not obey any command from my brain and I scratched like I was demon-possessed.

— Nelly Bosire

Symptoms

Chickenpox begins as a blister-like rash, which first appears on the face and trunk, and then spreads throughout the body.

The itchy blister rash appears 10 to 21 days after exposure to the virus and usually lasts about five to 10 days.

Other symptoms that generally begin to appear one to two days before blister-like rash are fever, fatigue, loss of appetite and headache.

Most doctors believe that deliberately infecting a child with the full-blown virus is a bad idea. While chickenpox is mild for most children, it can be a dangerous virus for others — and there's no way to know which child will have a serious case, experts say.

— Shamard Charles, M.D.

Complications

In a research study of 112 children hospitalized with varicella in the United Kingdom and Ireland, 30 had pneumonia, 30 had septic shock, 26 had brain inflammation, 25 had ataxia, and 14 had toxic shock syndrome. Around 50 percent of them had other bacterial infections. Five children died, and one pregnant woman had a miscarriage.

Have you vaccinated your child against chickenpox?

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Treatment

The goal of chickenpox treatment is to provide relief from the symptoms. Doctors usually prescribe paracetamol to relieve fever, and calamine lotion and cooling gels to ease itching.

Prevention

The best way to prevent chickenpox is to get the varicella chickenpox vaccine. This vaccine is recommended in many parts of the world as part of routine childhood immunisation to help prevent the disease.

A similar vaccine -- but in a higher dose -- is available for seniors who already had chickenpox to prevent painful outbreaks of shingles.

People with chickenpox should avoid contact with those who have not had it, and with those who have a greater risk of developing the symptoms.

This especially includes individuals with a weak immune system, newborn babies, and non-vaccinated adults.

The virus can harm unborn children during pregnancy, and can be life-threatening for newborns.

A person who has contracted chickenpox can be infectious for up to 2 days before experiencing the rash that is associated with the virus.

— Northern Kentucky Health Department

This content is accurate and true to the best of the author’s knowledge and does not substitute for diagnosis, prognosis, treatment, prescription, and/or dietary advice from a licensed health professional. Drugs, supplements, and natural remedies may have dangerous side effects. If pregnant or nursing, consult with a qualified provider on an individual basis. Seek immediate help if you are experiencing a medical emergency.

© 2019 Srikanth R

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