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Chickenpox


Chickenpox is an infectious disease caused by the varicella virus. Most cases occur in children under age 15 but older children and adults can get it. It spreads very easily from one child to another. Symptoms include an uncomfortable, itchy rash, fever and headache. The rash is like blisters and usually appears on the face, scalp or trunk. The disease is usually mild and lasts 5 to 10 days, but it sometimes causes serious problems. Adults and older children tend to get sicker from it. Do not give aspirin to anyone sick with chickenpox since the combination might cause Reye Syndrome. Once you catch chickenpox, the virus usually stays in your body forever. You probably will not get chickenpox again, but the virus can cause shingles in adults. A chickenpox vaccine can help prevent most cases of chickenpox, or make it less severe if you do get it. 

INTRODUCTION

 

Chickenpox is an infectious disease caused by the varicella-zoster virus. Most cases of chickenpox develop in children under the age of 15. However, older children and adults can also get chickenpox. Chickenpox spreads very easily from one child to another. It can occasionally cause serious problems. This program discusses the diagnosis and treatment of chickenpox. Information about what causes chickenpox and what you can do to treat chickenpox is also included. 

CHICKENPOX

 


Chickenpox is a very contagious disease caused by the varicella-zoster virus. It causes a blister-like rash, itching, tiredness,

and fever. Chickenpox can be a serious illness, especially in babies, adults and people with weakened immune systems. It spreads easily from infected people to others who have never had chickenpox or received the chickenpox vaccine. Chickenpox is spread from person to person by directly touching the blisters, saliva or mucus of an infected person. The virus can also spread through the air by coughing and sneezing. Chickenpox can be spread by touching contaminated items from an infected person. Chickenpox can also be spread by people with shingles. A person with shingles can spread the virus to others who have never had chickenpox or received the chickenpox vaccine. A person with chickenpox can spread the disease from 1 to 2 days before developing the rash until all of the chickenpox blisters have formed scabs. It takes from 10 to 21 days for someone to develop chickenpox after being exposed to it. The best way to prevent chickenpox is to get vaccinated against it. Before the vaccine, millions of people got chickenpox each year. For most people, getting chickenpox once provides immunity for life. Some people may get chickenpox more than once, but it is not common. 

SYMPTOMS

 


Anyone who hasn’t had chickenpox or received the chickenpox vaccine can get the disease. Chickenpox usually lasts about 5 to 10 days. Children often miss 5 to 6 days of school or childcare due to chickenpox. The classic symptom of chickenpox is a rash that turns into itchy, fluid-filled blisters. These blisters turn into scabs. This usually takes about one week. A chickenpox rash often shows up on the face, chest, and back first. It then spreads to the rest of the body, including inside the mouth, eyelids, or genital area. Other symptoms that may show up 1 to 2 days before a rash include:

·         High fever

·         Tiredness

·         Loss of appetite

·         Headache

Some people who have been vaccinated against chickenpox can still get the disease. However, the symptoms are usually milder with fewer blisters and little or no fever. 

DIAGNOSIS

 

Your healthcare provider can often diagnose chickenpox by looking at the rash and asking questions about your medical history. Laboratory tests can help confirm the diagnosis, if needed. 

COMPLICATIONS

 

Complications from chickenpox can develop. However they are not common. Some people with serious complications from chickenpox require hospitalization. People who may have more severe symptoms and be at higher risk for complications include:

·         Infants

·         People over the age of 12

·         Pregnant women

·         People with weakened immune systems because of illness or medications

Serious complications from chickenpox include:

·         Dehydration

·         Pneumonia

·         Bleeding problems

·         Infection or inflammation of the brain

·         Bacterial infections of the skin and soft tissues in children

·         Blood stream infections

·         Toxic shock syndrome

·         Bone infections

·         Joint infections

Chickenpox sometimes, though rarely, causes death. Death from chickenpox can happen in healthy, unvaccinated children and adults. Many of the healthy adults who died from chickenpox contracted the disease from their unvaccinated children. 

TREATING CHICKENPOX

 


There are several things you can do at home to relieve the symptoms of chickenpox and prevent skin infections. You should always avoid scratching chickenpox blisters. Calamine lotion and colloidal oatmeal baths may help relieve some of the itching. Keeping your fingernails trimmed short may also help prevent skin infections caused by scratching blisters. Do not use aspirin or aspirin-containing products to relieve fever from chickenpox. The use of aspirin in children with chickenpox has been associated with Reye’s syndrome, a serious disease that affects the liver and brain and can cause death. Use non-aspirin medications to relieve fever from chickenpox. Some non-aspirin medications include acetaminophen and ibuprofen. People who are at risk of serious complications from chickenpox should see a healthcare provider immediately. This includes infants, people over the age of 12, people with a weakened immune system, and pregnant women. You should also call a healthcare provider if you develop any of the following symptoms:

·         Fever lasting longer than 4 days

·         Fever above 102°F

·         Parts of the body become very red, warm or tender, or begins leaking pus

You should also call a healthcare provider if you experience:

·         Difficult waking up or confused demeanor

·         Difficulty walking

·         Stiff neck

·         Frequent vomiting

·         Difficulty breathing

·         Severe cough

Antiviral medications may be used to treat chickenpox. Your healthcare provider can advise you on these and other treatment options. 

PREVENTING CHICKENPOX

 

The best way to prevent chickenpox is to get vaccinated. Children, adolescents, and adults should have two doses of the chickenpox vaccine. The chickenpox vaccine is very safe and effective at preventing the disease. Most people who get the vaccine will not get chickenpox. If a vaccinated person does get chickenpox, it is usually mild with fewer blisters and little or no fever. The chickenpox vaccine prevents almost all cases of severe disease. The following people should call a healthcare provider if they are exposed to chickenpox:

·         People who have never had chickenpox and have not received the chickenpox vaccine

·         People who have a weakened immune system caused by disease or medication

·         Pregnant women



SUMMARY

 

Chickenpox is an infectious disease caused by the varicella virus. Most cases develop in children under age 15 but older children and adults can get it. It spreads very easily from one person to another. Symptoms of chickenpox include an uncomfortable, itchy rash, fever and headache. The disease is usually mild and lasts 5 to 10 days, but it sometimes causes serious problems. Adults and older children tend to get sicker from chickenpox. Do not give aspirin to anyone sick with chickenpox since the combination might cause Reye’s syndrome. Once you catch chickenpox, the virus usually stays in your body forever. A chickenpox vaccine can help prevent most cases of chickenpox, or make it less severe if you do get it.