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All about Chickenpox

What is Chickenpox?

Chickenpox also known as varicella is caused by a germ called varicella-zoster virus that leads to the appearance of itchy red blisters all over the body. It mostly affects children if they are not vaccinated. It’s a contagious disease and a child with chickenpox can infect other children. Once you’ve got chickenpox, you won’t get infected by it through another person. Though chickenpox mostly affects children but if you’re not vaccinated, you can get chickenpox at any age. Adults who get chickenpox can become very sick, so it’s better to get chickenpox when you’re a child or prevent it by getting the vaccine.

What are the Symptoms of Chickenpox?

The symptoms of chickenpox include:

  • Fever
  • Fatigue
  • Body pain and headache
  • Constant stomachache
  • Rashes on the skin that are quite itchy and seem like several small blisters
  • Bumps filled with white-coloured liquid
  • Scabs after the blisters break
  • Skin that seems blotchy
  • Spots on skin
  • Loss of appetite

What are the Causes of Chickenpox?

A virus named varicella-zoster virus (VZV) causes chickenpox and it is very contagious. Chickenpox mostly transmits when someone gets in direct contact with the rashes of a person with chickenpox. Chickenpox also spreads when an infected person coughs or sneezes and someone else inhales the air droplets.

What are the Risk Factors of Chickenpox?

The risk of getting chickenpox increases if you are not vaccinated or you never had chickenpox even in childhood. If you get infected by chickenpox once, your body develops immunity against it and you can’t get infected by the virus again. A person can get chickenpox more than once but it’s very rare.

The people who remain in the company of children like the people who work in school or child care must get vaccinated as there are higher chances of getting chickenpox from a child with chickenpox as children are more prone to chickenpox as compared to adults.

People who have a higher risk of getting chickenpox to include:

  • Children of mothers who never had chickenpox or the vaccine
  • Pregnant women who never had chickenpox or are not vaccinated
  • People who smoke or drink
  • People with weak immune systems because of medication, like chemotherapy, or by a disease, including cancer or HIV
  • People taking steroid medications for a different disease or condition, like asthma

What are the Complications of Chickenpox?

It’s very rare that chickenpox can lead to some serious complications and can be fatal but still there are a few complications of chickenpox including:

  • Bacterial skin infections
  • Dehydration in the body
  • Brain inflammation, known as encephalitis
  • Bleeding
  • Severe infection in the bloodstream, known as sepsis
  • Pneumonia
  • Toxic shock syndrome
  • Children and teenagers who take aspirin during chickenpox may suffer from Reye’s syndrome

How is Chickenpox Diagnosed?

Signs of chickenpox are easy to be diagnosed. Doctors often can see the rashes on the skin and know if it is chickenpox or not. If there’s still any doubt, then chickenpox can be established with lab tests such as blood tests or checking lesion samples.

What are the Treatment Options for Chickenpox?

Getting vaccinated at an early age is the best way to prevent chickenpox but still, if your children get chickenpox then there is no need to worry as it will go away on its own in a week or two.

Your doctor may prescribe you some medications to reduce itchiness, pain if any, and other symptoms which may be causing discomfort.

Here are some treatments and methods to ease the symptoms:

  • Antihistamine to relieve itching.
  • Tylenol (acetaminophen) can be prescribed to reduce high fever and pain
  • It is vital to drink lots of fluids, mostly water, to avert dehydration, which may be a complication of chickenpox.
  • Sugar-free popsicles can help to curb the symptoms of mouth soreness if there are spots in the mouth.
  • Use a lotion with antihistamines on the rash. Also, encourage your child not to scratch the rashes to reduce the risk of scarring.
  • Your doctor may prescribe antiviral medication during pregnancy, for adults who got diagnosed early, for infants, and people with a weakened immune system.

Living with Chickenpox

Chickenpox is not a long-term condition and it goes away by itself in one or two weeks. If the symptoms are severe during the span of the condition, then you can consult your doctor and take necessary measures to ease the symptoms. Getting vaccinated at an early age can help to prevent chickenpox.

Whom to Consult?

If you feel that either you or your child have symptoms of chickenpox, then consult your doctor immediately. Your doctor can diagnose chickenpox by checking the rash and bearing in mind the other symptoms. Your doctor can also prescribe medications to reduce the severity of chickenpox and treat complications if required. To avoid infecting others, try to remain in isolation till it’s cured and usually chickenpox goes away by itself in a week or two.

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