One of the most common childhood illnesses and one most adults will remember!
Believe it or not back in the day parents would often have “chickenpox” parties. Why? Because it was thought it was better to get it out of the way and ruin a planned holiday etc.
Having seen how my daughter was when she had the dreaded pox I can not understand why anyone would want their child to catch it!
We were incredibly unlucky, the day before my daughter was due to get the vaccine (more on that below) she came out with 1 spot. The next day she was covered from head to toe. Hundreds of them. She has an immune system condition which is why we were advised to have the vaccine. However, fate had other plans, and boy did she have it bad.
It was a horrid 10 - 14 days. My advice would be to make sure you have all the supplies you may need so you are prepared.
Almost all children will catch chickenpox. There are a lucky few that seem to get away with it or have very few symptoms and others may have been vaccinated.
The chickenpox incubation period can be anywhere form 1 to 3 weeks so, when it hits your nursery make sure you get the supplies ready and start looking for the first signs.
As mentioned making sure you are prepared will hopefully ease some of the stress of chickenpox when it first appears. Our list below is only a suggestion.
- Creams and Gels (your pharmacy can help you with this)
- Anti-histamine (age dependant ask you pharmacist for advice)
- Porridge oats (see Dr Zoe Williams tip further down in blog)
- Ice lollies (if applicable)
- Rehydration sachets (talk to you pharmacist)
We hope you find this blog helpful!
What is chickenpox and what are the stages
NHS have the following information…
Chickenpox is a highly contagious disease caused by the varicella-zoster virus (VZV). It can cause an itchy, blister-like rash among other symptoms.
Small spots can appear. You may find that you only have a few to start with.
The spots can:
- be anywhere on the body, including inside the mouth and around the genitals, which can be painful
- spread or stay in a small area
- be red, pink, darker or the same colour as surrounding skin, depending on your skin tone
- be harder to see on brown and black skin
The spots fill with fluid and become blisters. The blisters are very itchy and may burst.
The spots form a scab. Some scabs are flaky while others leak fluid
Are there other symptoms?
Before or after the rash appears, you might also get:
- a high temperature
- aches and pains, and generally feeling unwell
- loss of appetite
Chickenpox is very itchy and can make children feel miserable, even if they do not have many spots.
The chickenpox spots look the same on children and adults. But adults usually have a high temperature for longer and more spots than children.
It's possible to get chickenpox more than once, but it's unusual.
What can I do to help?
- offer plenty of fluids (try ice lollies if your child is not drinking) to avoid dehydration
- take paracetamol to help with pain and discomfort
- cut your child's fingernails and put socks on their hands at night to stop them scratching
- use cooling creams or gels from a pharmacy
- speak to a pharmacist about using antihistamine medication to help itching
- bathe in cool water and pat the skin dry (do not rub)
- dress in loose clothes
What should I NOT do?
- do not use ibuprofen unless advised to do so by a doctor, as it may cause serious skin infections
- do not give aspirin to children under 16 - this can lead to a serious condition called Reyes Disease
- do not go near newborn babies, people who are pregnant and people with a weakened immune system, as chickenpox can be dangerous for them
- do not scratch the spots, as scratching can cause scarring
Speak to a GP if:
- you're not sure it's chickenpox
- you're concerned about your child
Tell the receptionist you think it might be chickenpox before going in to a GP surgery.
Speak to 111 if:
- the skin around the chickenpox blisters is hot, painful and red, but redness may be harder to see on brown or black skin
- your child has chickenpox and is dehydrated
- chickenpox symptoms suddenly get worse
- you're pregnant and have not had chickenpox before, or you're not sure, and you've been near someone with chickenpox
- you have a weakened immune system and have been near someone with chickenpox
- you think your newborn baby has chickenpox
111 will tell you what to do. They can arrange a phone call from a nurse or doctor if you need one.
When can chickenpox be spread? How soon do symptoms appear?
You can catch chickenpox by being in the same room as someone with it. It's also spread by touching things that have fluid from the blisters on them.
You can spread chickenpox to other people from 2 days before your spots appear until they have all formed scabs – usually 5 days after your spots appeared
The spots start appearing around 1 to 3 weeks after you caught chickenpox
You'll need to stay away from school, nursery or work until all the spots have formed a scab. This is usually 5 days after the spots appeared
Shingles and chickenpox
You cannot catch shingles from someone with chickenpox
You can catch chickenpox from someone with shingles if you have not had chickenpox before
When you get chickenpox, the virus stays in your body. The virus can be triggered again if your immune system is weak. This causes shingles
This can happen because of stress, certain conditions, or treatments like chemotherapy
Chickenpox in pregnancy
Most people get chickenpox during childhood, so it's rare to get chickenpox when you're pregnant
If you do get chickenpox, or come into direct contact when you're pregnant, there's a small risk of your baby being very ill when it's born
Contact your midwife or GP straight away who can organise a simple blood test to check immunity
The chickenpox vaccine protects against the varicella zoster virus that causes chickenpox
The chickenpox vaccine is not part of the routine childhood vaccination schedule
It's currently only offered on the NHS to people who are in close contact with someone who's particularly vulnerable to chickenpox or its complications
There are 2 chickenpox vaccines currently available. The brand names of the chickenpox vaccine are VARIVAX and VARILRIX
Some people have a higher chance of developing serious complications from chickenpox
- people who have weakened immune systems through illnesses such as HIV or treatments like chemotherapy
- pregnant women
The chickenpox vaccine is a live vaccine and contains a small amount of weakened chickenpox-causing virus
The vaccine stimulates your immune system to produce antibodies that will help protect against chickenpox
The vaccine is given as 2 separate injections, usually into the upper arm, 4 to 8 weeks apart
Top tip from Dr Zoe Williams (as seen on TV)
Put a handful of oats in a sock/tights and place over the tap whilst you run the bath. The water should look cloudy. You can also dab the sock directly onto the spots in the bath.
Budget remedy for soothing chickenpox
Sources - NHS