With your elementary school days far behind you, so are memories of the various bugs shared between classmates that resulted in homebound days of chicken soup and fretting parents. Varicella, which you known as chicken pox, usually affects children under the age of 15 — and most of the time only mildly, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC). Chicken pox is one of the more common illnesses that can affect your school-aged child.
What Causes It
The bug responsible for chicken pox is the varicella-zoster virus, or VZV. This bug can only be transmitted from one human being to another — and only humans can get chicken pox. Your child may be exposed to chicken pox through the sneeze or cough of an infected classmate or through direct physical contact. After your child is infected with VZV, it may be one to two days before the “pox” itself erupts. However, during this time, your child can pass VZV to other uninfected classmates.
The first symptoms of chicken pox are the characteristic red, itchy rash associated with the disease that peppers the face, chest, scalp and back. Experts at MayoClinic.com explain that chicken pox rash goes through various stages, first appearing as a raised pink or red bump. Blisters filled with fluid appear over the bumps that may break or leak before they finally scab over and heal. New papules appear just as old ones are healing. This can go on for several days — usually between four to seven, according to the CDC.
Symptoms that can accompany chicken pox include fever, headache, cough, a flagging appetite and general discomfort and crankiness.
What To Do
If you think your child may have chicken pox, call his treating physician for an appointment — and remember to tell the appointment desk that you suspect chicken pox, so you won’t be placed in a crowded waiting room. Children who are otherwise healthy generally require no medical treatment with perhaps the exception of a prescription antihistamine. MayoClinic.com suggests home remedies to make your itchy child more comfortable. Add baking soda, uncooked oatmeal or colloidal oatmeal to a cool bath. Carefully dab topical anti-itch medications, such as calamine lotion, on the lesions. For fever, acetaminophen and ibuprofen may be helpful; however, never give your child aspirin. If considering nonprescription antihistamines, ask your doctor which ones your child can safely take.
Preventing Chicken Pox
Before the varicella vaccine was introduced in 1995, most children were expected to get chicken pox at some point of life. However, what you might not know is that chicken pox sometimes had a serious and even deadly outcome, causing some 11,000 hospitalizations and 100 deaths each year in the United States. Chicken pox can lead to dire complications, such as pneumonia and encephalitis. The CDC, American Academy of Pediatrics and American Academy of Family Physicians, recommend that healthy children receive the chicken pox vaccine to prevent unnecessary sick days — and to protect your child’s health.