What is chickenpox?
Chickenpox or varicella is a highly infective illness caused by a virus, and it is one of the most common diseases in childhood. Most of us had chickenpox in their childhood, but children nowadays are most commonly vaccinated against this disease.
The symptoms of chickenpox
The first and the most recognizable symptom of chickenpox is blistering red rash, which bursts out quickly and usually covers the entire body. The red spots usually appear in clusters and they can be found anywhere on the body – most commonly on the face, scalp, chest, belly and limbs. It can even happen that the rash appears inside the ears and mouth and on palms and soles. The rash is very itchy, and before it bursts, some flu-like symptoms may appear, such as – fever, aching muscles, nausea, loss of appetite and headache.
The vaccination against chickenpox began in 1990s. Around twenty years later, this disease has become very uncommon in Western societies. It is so uncommon today, that many children have never had it, and even many doctors of younger generations have never seen this disease in practice, they only know about it from books.
Since chickenpox is caused by virus, they themselves are generally not treated by any medications. However, the symptoms preceding and following the outburst of the rash can be treated and the itch may be eased in several ways.
Treating flu-like symptoms
Since chickenpox is followed by flu-like symptoms, they can be treated like other symptoms of flu. Pain and fever can be treated by drugs containing paracetamol, while drugs containing ibuprofen should be avoided since they can cause skin reactions in case of chickenpox. Staying hydrated is very important, so it is advisable to drink plenty of water and mild herbal tea.
Treating the rash
The rash which appears due to chickenpox is very itchy and causes great discomfort. Do your best to prevent your child from itching, since it only causes more itching and can create scars on the skin. Wearing loose-fitting, light clothes of natural materials is advisable, and bathing in warm water with several grains of potassium permanganate (hipermangana) can help easing the itch.
Even though chickenpox is usually very mild when they affect children, some complications can still occur in rare cases. Also, while children most commonly remain unharmed by chickenpox, this disease can cause many complications in case you get it as an adult.
Complications in children
In rare cases, chickenpox can cause severe complications in children, and they include encephalitis, meningitis or cerebellitis. In case a child experiences seizures, stiff neck, problems with walking, speech or maintaining balance, you should immediately seek medical advice.
Complications in adults
Chickenpox is much more severe in adults than children. Adults who get infected by the virus are likely to develop lung problems such as pneumonia, and the risk increases further for the smokers. Pregnant women are also at risk of developing pneumonia, and there is also a risk of transmitting the disease to the baby.