Chickenpox, a highly transmissible (that spreads easily through contact) infection, is caused by the varicella zoster virus. It presents as an itchy blister like rash which is initially visible on the back, chest, and face, and further spreads over the entire body.
Who is at Risk?
Chickenpox may be severe in certain individuals, such as:
- Newborns: An exposure from the mother, who was infected with the varicella zoster virus in late pregnancy, may make the newborn more prone to risk of developing chickenpox within the first 28 days of life.
- Pregnant women
- People with a weak immune system: Patients having certain diseases (such as HIV) or those undergoing treatment for cancer (Chemotherapy).
How to Identify?
Chickenpox symptoms include:
- Sudden fever (mild to moderate)
- Back pain
- Loss of appetite
When Should You See a Doctor?
Usually, chickenpox resolves within a week or two, but sometimes you may have to consult your doctor or pediatrician. In order to prevent any complications, take care of the following if your child has chickenpox:
- If the child is below the age of one
- If the child has any history of weak immune system or is having an impaired immune system due to long-standing illness or cancer
- If the child has high grade fever (more than or equal to 102°F or 39°C) or if the fever lasts for more than four days continuously or intermittently goes away after 24 hours and then appears again.
- If the child has breathing difficulty, stiff neck, confusion, or a rash that’s bleeding
Note: Sometimes your doctor may recommend antiviral medications to reduce the duration of chickenpox.
Vaccination is the best way to prevent chickenpox infection. It should be administered to children less than 13 years of age. The vaccine should be administered to children in two doses. Dose 1 should be given between the age of 12 and 15 months and the dose 2 between the age of 4 and 6 years.
Many home remedies can be used to decrease the length of the illness and complications associated with the disease with minimal side effects of the treatment. Following home remedies may be helpful in chickenpox:
1. Consume Plenty of Fluids
- Patient should drink lots of fluids to avoid dehydration.
- Patients are advised to consume soft and bland foods (for example: soup that has cooled down).
- Patients should avoid consuming foods that are hard, spicy or salty. Eating such foods may irritate chicken pox spots in the mouth.
2. Apply Calamine Lotion
- Calamine lotion has skin-soothing properties and thus, it can help reduce itching of the skin.
- Dab a small amount of calamine lotion on the affected skin using a cotton swab or with a clean finger. Spread the calamine lotion on the itchy skin areas and let it dry on the skin.
- Always remember to shake the bottle before using calamine lotion.
- Using calamine lotion on chickenpox that is around the eyes is not advised.
3. Take Oatmeal Bath/ Chamomile Bath/ Baking Soda Bath
Patient is advised to use one of the following while bathing:
- Oats are known to relieve itching when applied topically.
- Finely ground oats when mixed with water help in soothing the skin.
- Patient may add a small amount of ground oats in their bathing water or may also soak in it for relief.
- Chamomile can be used for relieving itchy skin due to its anti-inflammatory properties.
- Patient may add chamomile to their bathing water and may soak into it to experience the soothing effects.
Baking Soda Bath:
- Baking soda is often used to relieve itchy skin.
- Patient may add a small amount of baking soda to their bathing water.
- It may be added to a glass of water and used by applying with a sponge over the irritated skin to provide relief.
Wear Mittens and Socks to Prevent Scratching
- Chickenpox will lead to rashes that may be itchy. Patient must avoid scratching, as it may lead to infection.
- Trim nails to prevent scratching the chickenpox blisters.
- Keep the nails clean in order to lower any chance of bursting the blisters. Try patting the skin instead of scratching whenever it feels itchy.
- Wear hand mittens and/ or socks at night to avoid scratching the skin while sleeping.
- Wear soft comfortable fabrics (such as cotton) and loose clothes.
- Neem leaves can help in fighting the varicella zoster virus due to their antiviral properties.
- Consuming a mild tea made by steeping neem leaves in hot water may help in chickenpox.
- Patient can soak neem leaves in their bathing water. This will help relieve itching and soothe the skin.
It will take around 5 days for the chickenpox spots to crust, from the first day of the appearance of the spots. Make sure that the child stays at home and should not attend school or nursery until all the chickenpox spots have crusted over, to avoid spreading the infection.
Take a Note
Discuss with your healthcare provider before using any of the home remedies mentioned above. Also, one must be cautious before combining any of these remedies together. Thus, using home remedies are helpful when used
- How long will it take for chickenpox scars to clear-up?
It may take about 2 weeks for all the chickenpox scabs to fall off. Your doctor may prescribe certain topical creams or lotions that can be applied over the blemishes or scars to help with the healing and may help in clearing temporary marks on the skin in around 6 to 12 months. Chickenpox may sometimes leave permanent scars in case the blisters become badly infected.
- What is the infectious period of chickenpox?
Chickenpox may be most infectious from two days before the chickenpox spots first appear, till they crust over (usually five days after they first appeared).