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Karan, a 9-year old boy, loved going to school every day and play with his friends at the park in the evening. One fine day, when he returned home from school, he refused to go out and play. He looked pale and weak. His mother found that he had slight fever. She thought it was due to common cold because he was also coughing and sneezing. She took him to the doctor and got some medicines for cold and cough. But, they didn't work. The next day, his mother noticed that he was uncontrollably scratching himself and had developed some spots on his belly. That's when she figured out that he might have chickenpox.
Chicken pox is caused by the varicella zoster virus. It is highly contagious and usually acquired through direct contact with an infected person. It is present in the tiny droplets expelled through sneezing and coughing from a person having chicken pox.
The first symptom of chicken pox appears about 15-16 days after coming in contact with the virus. Initial symptoms of chicken pox are usually confused with flu-like symptoms, which leads to missed diagnosis or delayed diagnosis. If your child has any of the following symptoms, he most likely is infected with the chicken pox virus.
1. High fever: Soon after the immune system of the body recognizes the virus as a threat, it up-regulates the temperature to eliminate the virus from the body. The temperature can even reach 100.4 degree F or go beyond that. Fever along with other flu-like symptoms is usually worse in case of adults compared to that in children
2. Headache: Mild headache usually starts a day or two before chicken pox rashes start appearing. It is usually accompanied with other flu like symptoms including sore throat, coughing and sneezing. It gradually gets severe till the time lesions start spreading all over the body.
3. Itchy, red rashes: Initial symptoms of chicken pox, especially headache, coughing and sore throat can be misleading and confused with general flu. But the appearance of itchy, red rashes all over the body is a key symptom for accurate diagnosis of chicken pox. Itching can vary from moderately bearable to severely uncomfortable. Itching tends to be worse in children who have other skin problems.
4. Chicken pox spots or lesions: The red rashes are replaced with red, round bumps or spots within 12-14 hours of itching. These spots or bumps develop a blister on the top which takes the shape of a lesion. Normally these lesions first appear on the stomach, face, back and chest. Later they may start erupting on the arms, legs, scalp, and tongue and mouth. The number of lesions can vary from person to person. But on an average, about 200-250 spots may develop all over the body.
5. Loss of appetite: Many children complain about stomach ache along with irritating rashes and fever. Due to weakness and nausea, patients have lowered appetite. This can also cause weight loss.
6. Overall fatigue: Because of a weakened immune system, general nausea and loss of appetite, overall fatigue may be experienced.
Chickenpox By Gretchen Hoffmann
Chickenpox (Varicella). Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC)
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