Shoo away the summer disease

FM Bureau | 01-May-2014

Detailed News

Chickenpox is a contagious disease and vaccination is the best way to prevent it. The infected can take medications to lessen the severity of the disease if there are complications 

By FM Bureau

Chickenpox is highly contagious and those who havent had the disease and not been vaccinated against it have more chances to contract the disease. Before the routine chickenpox vaccination, virtually everybody had been infected by the time they reached adulthood, sometimes with serious complications. Today, the number of cases and hospitalisations has come down dramatically. 

Although chickenpox seems to be a mild disease today, its better to get vaccinated. The chickenpox vaccine is safe and an effective way to prevent the disease and its possible complications.


Chickenpox infection usually lasts about five to 10 days. The rash is the telltale indication of chickenpox. Other signs and symptoms, which may appear one to two days before the rash, include fever, loss of appetite, headache, tiredness and a general feeling of being unwell (malaise).

Once the chickenpox rash appears, it goes through three phases:

  • Raised pink or red bumps (papules), which break out over several days
  • Fluid-filled blisters (vesicles), forming from the raised bumps over about one day before breaking and leaking
  • Crusts and scabs which cover the broken blisters take several more days to heal

New bumps continue to appear for several days. As a result, you may have all three stages of the rash bumps, blisters and scabbed lesions at the same time on the second day of the rash. Once infected, you can spread the virus for up to 48 hours before the rash appears, and you remain contagious until all spots crust are over.

The disease is generally mild in healthy children. In severe cases, the rash can spread to cover the entire body, and lesions may form in the throat, eyes and mucous membranes of the urethra, anus and vagina.  If you suspect that you or your child has chickenpox, consult your doctor who can diagnose it by examining the rash and by noting the presence of accompanying symptoms. Your doctor can also prescribe medications to lessen the severity of chickenpox and treat complications, if necessary. Also, let your doctor know if any of these complications occur:

  • The rash spreads to one or both eyes.
  • The rash gets very red, warm or tender, indicating a possible secondary bacterial skin infection.
  • The rash is accompanied by dizziness, disorientation, rapid heartbeat, shortness of breath, tremors, loss of muscle coordination, worsening cough, vomiting, stiff neck or a fever higher than 103 F.
  • Anyone in the household is immune deficient or younger than six months old.

Home remedies

To help ease the symptoms of an uncomplicated case of chickenpox, follow these self-care measures:

  • Dont scratch. Scratching can cause scarring, slow healing and increase the risk that the sores will become infected.
  • Put gloves on his or her hands, especially at night
  • Trim his or her fingernails
  • Relieve the itch and other symptoms

The chickenpox rash can be very itchy, and broken vesicles sometimes sting. These discomforts, along with fever, headache and fatigue, can make anyone miserable. A cool bath with added baking soda, uncooked oatmeal or colloidal oatmeal can give the much needed relief. Calamine lotion can be dabbed on the spots. A soft, bland diet is good if chickenpox sores develop in the mouth. Antihistamines such as diphenhydramine (Benadryl, others) are used for itching. Check with your doctor to make sure your child can safely take antihistamines. Acetaminophen (Tylenol, others) or ibuprofen (Advil, Motrin IB, others) is prescribed for mild fever. Dont give aspirin to anyone with chickenpox because it can lead to a serious condition called Reyes syndrome.

Experts from the Centre for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) estimate that the vaccine provides complete protection from the virus for nearly 90% of young children.

Emergency medicine

  • Take lukewarm baths
  • Avoid aspirin
  • Trim fingernails to avoid skin damage
  • Drink cold fluids
  • Acyclovir effectively treats chickenpox
  • Fever treated with Acetaminophen/ibuprofen

Prevention tips  

  • Clean countertops regularly with a surface cleaner. And wash clothing that is soiled with fluid from chickenpox blisters.
  • Stay away from other family members who have not had chickenpox. Family members are more likely to get chickenpox from an infected person in their household than from playmates, schoolmates, or coworkers.
  • Stay away from people who have not had chickenpox or the chickenpox vaccine. This is especially important if you are pregnant or have an impaired immune system.

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