Chickenpox is a mild and common childhood illness that most children catch at some point.
If you are experiencing chickenpox with one of your children for the very first time you may be feeling anxious. You might feel unsure what to do with regards to school or Montessori and spreading the illness.
Don’t worry though we have everything you need to know about what you should do if your little one does get sick, and when they should return to school.
What is chickenpox?
- Chickenpox is a mild and common childhood illness that most children catch at some point. It causes a rash of red, itchy spots that turn into fluid-filled blisters. They then crust over to form scabs, which eventually drop off.
- Some children have only a few spots, but in others, they can cover the entire body. The spots are most likely to appear on the face, ears and scalp, under the arms, on the chest and stomach and on the arms and legs.
- Chickenpox (medically known as varicella) is caused by a virus called the varicella-zoster virus. It's spread quickly and easily through the coughs and sneezes of someone who is infected.
- Chickenpox is most common in children under 10. In fact, chickenpox is so common in childhood that 90% of adults are immune to the condition because they've had it before.
- Children usually catch chickenpox in winter and spring, particularly between March and May.
Chickenpox in children is considered a mild illness, but expect your kid to feel pretty miserable and irritable while they have it. They are likely to have a fever at least for the first few days of the illness and the spots can be incredibly itchy.
There is no specific treatment for chickenpox, but there are pharmacy remedies which can alleviate symptoms, such as paracetamol to relieve fever and calamine lotion and cooling gels to ease itching. In most children, the blisters crust up and fall off naturally within one to two weeks.
When to see a doctor
For most children, chickenpox is a mild illness that gets better on its own. However, some children can become more seriously ill and they will need to see a doctor.
Contact your GP straight away if your child develops any abnormal symptoms, for example:
- if the blisters on their skin become infected
- if your child has a pain in their chest or has difficulty breathing
What should I do regarding school, work or creche?
1. If your child has chickenpox, inform their school or nursery and keep them at home while they are infectious, which is until the last blister has burst and crusted over. This usually takes five or six days after the rash begins.
2. If you have chickenpox, stay off work and at home until you're no longer infectious.
3. If either you or your child has chickenpox, it is also a good idea for you, or them, to avoid contact with:
- pregnant women
- newborn babies
- anyone who has a weak immune system, such as people who are having chemotherapy (a treatment for cancer) or taking steroid tablets
4. If you or your child have recently been exposed to the chickenpox virus, you may not be able to visit friends or relatives in hospital. Telephone the ward to check first.
Stop the virus spreading
Chickenpox can sometimes be spread through contact with objects that have been infected with the virus, such as children's toys, bedding or clothing.
If someone in your household has chickenpox, you can help stop the virus spreading by wiping any objects or surfaces with a sterilising solution and making sure that any infected clothing or bedding is washed regularly.
There is a chickenpox vaccine that is used to protect people who are most at risk of a serious infection or of passing the infection on to someone who is at risk.
People who may be considered for chickenpox vaccination include:
- healthcare workers who are not already immune - for example, a nurse who has never had chickenpox and who may pass it to someone they are treating if they become infected
- people living with someone who has a weakened immune system - for example, the child of a parent receiving chemotherapy
The vaccine is not suitable for pregnant women. Avoid getting pregnant for three months after having the vaccine. The vaccine is also not suitable for people with weakened immune systems.
Laura Doyle, Mum of 4. Kyle 9, Noa Belle 4, Briar 2 and Milla 12 months. Breastfeeder, co-sleeper, coffee drinker. Staying positive and inspired by the chaos of it all. Follow her on Instagram.