When your child breaks out all over in a blistery, itchy red rash, there’s a good chance it’s the chicken pox. Chicken pox is caused by the varicella-zoster virus, and although it’s typically a childhood disease, people who have not contracted it as a child can suffer from it in adulthood as well.
Chicken pox is highly contagious and can spread from person to person by direct contact or through the air from an infected person's coughing or sneezing.
Itchy red spots or blisters all over the body are telltale signs of chicken pox. It may also be accompanied by a headache, sore throat and fever. Symptoms are generally mild among children, but can cause serious complications in infants, adults and people with weakened immune systems.
The most common symptoms of chicken pox include:
The symptoms of chicken pox may resemble other skin problems or medical conditions, so it is always important to consult your child's physician or dermatologist for proper diagnosis. If the chicken pox rash seems generalized or severe, or if the child has a high grade fever or is experiencing a headache or nausea, seek medical care right away.
The incubation period (from exposure to first appearance of symptoms) is 14 to 16 days. When the blisters crust over, they are no longer contagious and the child can return to normal activity.
It is important not to scratch the blisters as it can slow down the healing process and result in scarring. Scratching may also increase the risk of a bacterial infection. To help relieve the itching, soak in a cool or lukewarm oatmeal bath. A physician may recommend anti-itch ointments or medications, such as over-the-counter antihistamines, to control this troublesome itch.
Although about four million children get chicken pox each year, it may be preventable via a vaccine. Usually one episode of chicken pox in childhood provides lifelong immunity to the virus.
Fortunately, chicken pox is more of a nuisance than a concern. With time and extra rest, the rash will pass and the child will be good as new! Contact your dermatologist whenever you have questions or concerns about chicken pox.