It’s summer time and itches and rashes are common, but if you notice either yourself or your child developing pus filled rashes along the back that progress to the rest of the body, you should be worried. A common disease in the summer, chicken pox occurs mostly in children and sometimes in adults. Rashes that are accompanied with fever between the range of 102 to 103 degrees and general fatigue are the most tell-tale symptoms of the disease.
Chicken pox is a condition that is caused due to infection by a virus called Varicella Zoster virus (VZV). It is a highly contagious disease that is spread via contact with an infected person. That means if an infected person sneezes or coughs near you or by close contact with an infected person you are at a higher risk of contracting the disease. Although it is believed that chicken pox is spread mostly by particles in the air, the most common way a person can get infected is by touching objects that may have been used by the patient.
Chicken pox is usually seen in children under the age of 15 but can occur in adults as well. Doctors say that if an adult suffers from the disease, it usually lasts longer and is more severe. The good thing is if you get the disease once you can’t get it again. This is because the body manufactures antibodies against the virus and prevents it from occurring again. The disease takes about 14 to 24 days after infection to manifest as symptoms. Once the rashes appear, a person with chicken pox should not be in contact with other people, as he/she is highly contagious at this time. After about seven to ten days, the rashes dry out and a scab forms. Once these scabs fall off, a person is considered non-contagious. A person usually suffers from chicken pox for about 10-15 days. A rare phenomenon is when the virus remains in a particular nerve ending of the person, and can reoccur as a painful condition known as shingles. Shingles are caused by the weaker form of the chicken pox virus.
Chicken pox and pregnancy
Pregnant woman are at greatest risk when it comes to chicken pox. They have a weak immune system and the disease can affect the foetus and mother very adversely. If a pregnant woman contracts the disease between the first and second trimester of pregnancy there is a 2% chance* that the baby may be born with a condition called Congenital Varicella Syndrome (CVS). This is a condition where the child is born with certain congenital defects such as scarring of the skin, malformation of limbs, an abnormally small head, some neurological problems and vision defects. A woman and her child are at greatest risk if chicken pox is contracted between the 13th and 20th week of pregnancy and five days before delivery and two days after delivery. This kind of chicken pox can give the baby what is called newborn chicken pox or neonatal Varicella.
Usually your doctor will examine your rashes and talk to you about your symptoms. A visual examination is most often enough to diagnose chicken pox. It is usually a self-resolving condition and your physician will most probably prescribe medicines to help relieve the itchiness and fever.
Here are some dos and don’ts when it comes to chicken pox
- Do not scratch the rashes. Scratching them can cause severe skin infections. Apart from the obvious disadvantages of scratching, the pus that oozes out from the rash can spread infection to other people.
- Do take adequate rest, do not over exert yourself. This will delay the recovery process by weakening your immune system.
- Do stay away or keep your child away from other children and people. Chicken pox is highly contagious and is easily spread.
- Do wear or put socks on your child’s hands at night so that they don’t scratch their rashes while sleeping. Remember to cut your nails well so as to avoid scratching yourself.
- Do use calamine lotion to soothe the skin, ask for a lotion that soothes the skin while not making it dry. Drying the skin could increase the itchiness.
- Have a bath in warm water infused with neem leaves. This will help to reduce the itchiness and get rid of any skin infections that might occur.
- To relieve the itchiness you could wash a bunch of neem leaves in warm water and stroke it over the rashes.
- Another natural remedy for itchiness of the rash is to soak some oatmeal in warm water and use it for a bath.
- Consult your doctor if you notice any unusual symptoms like breathlessness or very high fever.
- Once a person recovers from chicken pox, they should wash the sheets and disinfect their mattress well. This is an important step to avoid the further spread of the virus.
Lastly, you can protect yourself and your child from the disease all together, by opting to take the varicella vaccine. This vaccine can be given to children and adults alike, to prevent the onset of the disease. Your doctor may prescribe it to your newborn along with his/her routine vaccines. Although this is the best way to escape getting chicken pox, there are a few people who should not take the vaccine, they are severely ill people, people with suppressed or deficient immune systems, pregnant women, anyone who is allergic to the components of the vaccine or anyone suffering from cancer and has undergone therapies like chemotherapy, radiotherapy etc.
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