Chickenpox is a common infection affecting children and adults. The varicella-zoster virus triggers the condition. So, it is also known as varicella. The disease causes an itchy rash to develop on your body. The rash develops along with small, fluid-filled blisters. While the disease can cause no harm, it is highly contagious. So, people who have not received the vaccination or have not suffered it earlier can get the infection. The number of cases of varicella has dropped dramatically over the years due to the use of vaccination. Every child born now has to get the vaccination as a part of the routine immunization program. It is a safe and effective method to prevent the disease as well as its complications. Want to know more? Read ahead.
Symptoms Associated With Chickenpox
People suffering from the disease develop itchy blister rash. It appears ten to twenty-one days after the exposure to the virus. You can suffer from the infection for at least five to ten days. Before you develop the itchy rash, you can see other signs like:
- Loss of appetite
- Feel tired or unwell (malaise)
Phases Of Chickenpox
Once you get exposed to the variceal-zoster virus, you develop the rash. But, the rash goes through three phases before it runs its course. The three phases of the disease are:
- You see red or raised pink bumps on your skin known as papules. It usually breaks out several days after exposure to the virus.
- The bumps can turn into small fluid-filled blisters called vesicles. It forms a day after the bumps appear. It mostly breaks and leaks.
- The broken vesicles crusts and scabs. So, the scab the broken blisters. It takes several days to heal.
You can experience all three stages at the same time as new bumps tend to appear for several days. So, you can see bumps, blisters, as well as scabbed lesions on your skin. If you suffer from the infection, then you are contagious. It means you can spread the virus to others for up to two days (48 hours) after the rash appears. The varicella virus remains contagious until all the broken blisters crust over. The mild cases in healthy children cause less discomfort. But, severe cases cause the rash to cover the entire body. The lesions tend to form in sensitive areas like eyes, throat, anus, mucous membranes of the urethra, and vagina.
When To See A Doctor?
Children and adults need medical attention when the symptoms cause distress. If you feel afraid or unclear about the signs, then see a doctor for proper evaluation. Your doctor can examine the rash and consider the other symptoms to come to a conclusion. You also need a doctor’s assistance to reduce the severity of the symptoms and its complications. Since the disease is contagious, you need to call ahead for the appointment and mention the disease. You also need to inform your doctor about the following conditions:
- When the rash spreads to one or both eyes
- Along with the rash, you experience rapid heartbeat, dizziness, disorientation, tremors, worsening cough, loss of muscle coordination, stiff neck or high fever
- You suffer from a secondary bacterial infection (the rash feels warm, red, and tender)
- You have young children (less than six months) or people with a weak immune system in your home
Cause Of Chickenpox
Chickenpox is a viral infection caused due to the varicella-zoster virus. It transmits through direct contact with the rash. The virus can spread when a normal person inhales the air droplets coming from cough or sneezing by an infected person.
Risk Factors Associated With Chickenpox
The varicella-zoster virus infects people who have not suffered from the disease earlier or fail to get vaccinated. So, adults who work in child care or school settings need to get the vaccination to avoid any complications. People who have suffered from the disease will not get affected by it again. It is because your body has antibodies to fight the virus. Similarly, people who get vaccination can suffer from the problem. But, the symptoms are milder. So, you develop only fewer blisters with mild or no fever. Only a few people suffer from the problem more than once. But, never worry, it is a rare occurrence.
Complications Associated With Chickenpox
While chickenpox is a mild disease, some people can suffer from severe complications. Serious cases of varicella can lead to problems like:
- Sepsis (bacterial infection affecting bloodstream, joints, bones, soft tissues, and skin)
- Encephalitis (inflammation of the brain)
- Toxic shock syndrome
- Reye’s syndrome (caused in children and youngsters due to taking aspirin while suffering from varicella)
People At Risk Of Chickenpox Complications
In the majority of cases, chickenpox causes no severe issues. It is a mild disease that runs its course. But, some people face the risk of suffering from severe complications due to the disease. The following people face the wrath of the disease:
- Newborn babies and infants whose mother never had the vaccination or varicella disease
- Young adults and adults
- Pregnant women (who never had the vaccination or varicella disease)
- People who smoke
- Individuals with a weak immune system due to diseases like HIV or cancer or use medications like immunosuppressant or undergo chemotherapy.
- People taking steroid medication for medical conditions or diseases (for example, asthma)
Complications Of Chickenpox On Pregnant Women
While discussing the complications of varicella, you need to learn in detail regarding its effects on pregnant women. When a pregnant woman gets the disease during the early phase of pregnancy, it can result in the following:
- Limb abnormalities in the newborn
- Low birth weight
An expectant mother suffering from the infection a week before the due date or within a couple of days after the delivery can have a baby with a high risk of developing a serious infection. It can prove fatal for the newborn. Therefore, women who are planning to get pregnant or pregnant with no immunity to the disease need to talk to their doctor. Your doctor can explain the risks and suggest appropriate remedies.
Chickenpox And Shingles
People who have suffered from varicella can develop shingles. It is a complication affecting your nerve cells due to the presence of the varicella-zoster virus in the nerve cells after the healing of skin infection. Shingles can develop several years after suffering from chickenpox. The virus can reactivate and resurfaces. It results in a cluster of short-lived sores or blisters. It occurs when your immune system weakens. So, it is common among older people or those who have other diseases. The condition triggers immense pain as it persists even after the disappearance of the blisters. It is known as postherpetic neuralgia. It is a severe and distressing condition. Adults can avoid the problem be getting two shingles vaccines. It is ideal for people who have suffered from varicella. You need to talk to your doctor regarding the vaccination to prevent any complications.
It is easy to diagnose the problem based on the physical appearance of the rash. In normal cases, the diagnosis method is:
So, when you get an appointment with your doctor, a physical examination can determine the problem. Doctors come to the conclusion based on the appearance of the rash on the skin.
But, physical examination alone may not conclusively identify the disease. So, your doctor can suggest additional test during the following conditions:
Less Severe Bumps
Some people may suffer from a mild case of varicella. For mild cases, the rash may not look like the typical sores. The affected person develops small red bumps without blistering. The spots may look like a bed bug bite/insect bites or an allergic reaction.
When a pregnant woman develops varicella or becomes exposed to the virus, then the chances of miscarriage are high. It can also cause birth defects in the unborn child. New mothers who suffer from varicella immediately after birth can pass the disease to the infant. So, you need to consult your doctor for additional tests to ensure the baby is fine.
Some people remember getting vaccinated for the disease but develop rashes with a resemblance to varicella. So, your doctor can suggest additional tests for detecting the issue. While it is uncommon, the problem occurs among people who just get one dose of the vaccination instead of two. The good news is the earlier vaccination dose can reduce the severity of the disease. So, even if you develop the problem, it may seem like a mild case. So, it resolves quickly.
Your doctor suspects something is wrong. But, the physical appearance of the rash can mislead the healthcare professional. So, you need additional tests when you have atypical symptoms (no typical rash).
The healthcare professional suggests additional tests when you develop rashes due to other skin problems. Certain diseases or conditions can result in red, raised, and itchy rashes or skin blisters. So, to avoid confusion, your doctor can suggest other tests. Your doctor suggests it when you suffer from the following:
- Insect Bites (For example, Bed bug bites)
- Herpes Simplex
- Contact dermatitis
- Reaction to any medication you take
Your healthcare professional can suggest other tests to conclusively determine the presence of the varicella-zoster virus in your body. The tests include:
A sample of your blood gets tested in the laboratory to check for active infection or your immunity to the disease. The lab technician draws a small amount of blood to test for the presence of varicella-zoster virus antibodies.
In some cases, your doctor suggests viral culture instead of blood work. For the test, the technician takes the sample fluid from the blister. The sample specimen grows in the lab. The technicians test the specimen sample under a microscope for the presence of the varicella-zoster virus.
In most cases, the doctor suggests a blood test as it can provide results faster than viral culture.
Treatment For Chickenpox
In normal cases, no medical treatment is necessary to manage the disease. it is true for children as they only suffer a mild case of the disease. For discomfort due to itching, your doctor can prescribe an antihistamine. For the majority of the cases, the disease is allowed to run its course. But, treatment is necessary when you face a high risk of complications.
Treatment For High-Risk Chickenpox
People who face a high risk of developing complications, the doctor can prescribe remedies to manage the severity and length of the disease. So, you have the following options:
Reduce Length And Severity
The doctor prescribes antiviral drugs for a child facing a high risk of complications. Drugs like immune globulin intravenous or acyclovir reduce the severity of the disease. It is mostly given within twenty-four hours after the rash appears on the skin.
While it is not approved for everyone, antiviral drugs like famciclovir and valacyclovir reduce the severity of the disease. In some cases, your doctor recommends getting varicella vaccination after you get exposed to the virus. It will reduce the severity or prevent it altogether.
Treating Chickenpox Complications
Some people can develop complications due to varicella. So, consulting a doctor will help determine the appropriate treatment to manage the problem and prevent it from becoming severe. You have the following options:
- If you develop skin infection or pneumonia, then the doctor prescribes antibiotics.
- Antiviral drugs can manage brain inflammation (encephalitis).
- For severe cases, you need to stay in the hospital.
Lifestyle And Home Remedies For Chickenpox
While you have to wait patiently for varicella to run its course, you can take steps to reduce the discomfort associated with the condition. You can ease the signs associated with uncomplicated cases of the condition by following the self-care methods suggested below:
The sores developing due to the varicella-zoster infection can cause itching. You feel the urge to scratch the sore to get relief from persistent itching. But, scratching can only result in scarring. It also causes slow healing of the sores. When you scratch the sores, you face an increased risk of infection. While older people can control the itching sensation, children cannot stop scratching. In such cases, you can take the steps suggested below:
- Trim the child’s fingernails
- Put gloves on their hands (specifically at night time)
- Relieve Itching
The rash developed due to varicella can make you uncomfortable as it causes itching. You may feel miserable due to the condition. You can break vesicles due to the sores, which results in stinging. So, you can try the natural steps to reduce itching:
- Use calamine lotion on the sores
- Try soaking in a bath with uncooked oatmeal, aluminum acetate, and baking soda
At times, itching, headache or fever associated with the condition may make you frustrated. So, you can use OTC medication to relieve the discomfort. But, before using the OTC medication, talk to your doctor and get an all-clear. You can try the following medications:
- To relieve itching, you can use antihistamines. Diphenhydramine (for example, Benadryl) offers relief from itching.
- For fever, you can give acetaminophen like Tylenol.
While taking care of a child suffering from varicella, you must avoid giving aspirin. When children or youngsters take aspirin during the disease, it can lead to a more serious condition known as Reye’s syndrome.
When the signs become severe, you need to consult the doctor immediately. If fever is high (102 F) or lasts longer than four days, then you need to see your doctor. Before you give any NSAIDs (non-steroidal anti-inflammatory drugs), you need to get an expert opinion. Certain scientific studies indicate the use of medication can lead to tissue damage or skin infections.
Getting the varicella vaccine is the only effective method to prevent chickenpox. You get complete protection from the virus when you take the vaccine. It is effective as 98% of the people who get the recommended doses of the vaccine get complete protection. Even when the vaccine fails to provide complete protection, it reduces the severity of the disease. Varivax is a vaccination preferred to fight against varicella-zoster virus. It is recommended for the following people:
In several countries, healthcare professionals provide children with two doses of varicella vaccination. The age limit can vary. But, the first dose is given between twelve months to fifteen months. While the doctor provides the second dose when the child is between four years to six years of age. The vaccination is a part of the regular childhood vaccination schedule. It is usually combined with the MMR (measles, mumps, and rubella) vaccination. But some young children while receiving the first dose (12months to 23 months) can experience fever or face a high risk of seizure. Therefore, talk to your pediatrician about the effects of the vaccination on your child. Based on your child’s health, the doctor can provide information on the pros and cons of combining the vaccination. You can make a decision after checking all the facts.
Unvaccinated Older Children
Older children above seven years and below twelve years who have not received the vaccination need to get two doses of varicella vaccination. The two doses are provided at least three months apart. Children above thirteen years who have not received the vaccination need to get the catch-up doses. It is mostly provided at least four weeks apart.
Children who never received vaccination grow up to become adults with a high risk of exposure when they never had the disease. So, adults who face a high risk of exposure to the virus due to the nature of their work or lifestyle can need to think about getting varicella vaccination. It includes the following people:
- Healthcare workers
- International travelers
- Military personnel
- Child care employees
- Adults who live with children
- Women who plan to have children
In such cases, you need to get two doses of vaccine. It is usually provided at least four to eight weeks apart. If you have no knowledge about your vaccination status, then a blood test can shed light on your immunity. It will give information on whether you had the vaccination or not.
Varicella vaccination is not approved for everyone. It is not advised for the following people:
- Pregnant women
- People with weak immune systems (who suffer from HIV/AIDS or take immune-suppressing drugs)
- Individuals who are allergic to antibiotic neomycin or gelatin
You need to discuss your condition and options before taking the vaccine. Women who are planning for a baby need to get a checkup and ensure they are up-to-date on the vaccination. It is to avoid the possibility of getting such diseases while pregnant. So, they need to ensure safety before conceiving a child.
Is Chickenpox Vaccination Safe?
Are you concerned about the safety of your child? Many myths circulate around vaccinations. So, parents decide not to give vaccination to their child. It is no ideal to make a decision without knowing all the facts. So, is chickenpox vaccination safe? Studies on the vaccine from the time of its availability suggest it is safe as well as effective. Only some children experience mild symptoms. The symptoms can go away and cause no lasting complications. It includes:
- Small bumps
These signs occur on the injection site and cause no harm to the child. So, parents need to get the vaccination for their children to keep them safe from the varicella-zoster virus.
Chickenpox is a common illness occurring at any age. If you fail to get a vaccination for the disease, then you have high chances of infection. An unvaccinated child can catch varicella-zoster and pass it on to others. The condition can cause some issues. But, only a few develop a serious problem. The reports of varicella disease have gone due to the immunization programs in several countries. A child gets vaccinated when they are young to prevent the disease. Adults who catch chickenpox can suffer severely due to becoming very sick. So, it is better to get vaccinated to avoid complications. People who have developed the condition in childhood never have to worry. It is because they will not catch it again. Avoid the discomfort by getting your child or yourself vaccinated to get protection from the viral disease.View Article Sources