Chickenpox is a highly infectious disease, which means it’s easy to catch from someone who already has it.
Chickenpox is one of those childhood illnesses that most of us just expect our kids to get at some stage, but don’t really know much about.
The medical name for chickenpox is varicella because it is caused by the varicella zoster (VZ) virus. It’s a highly infectious disease, which means it’s easy to catch from someone who already has chickenpox.
The virus is usually mild and once you’ve had it your body is able to protect you from catching it again.
Signs and symptoms of chickenpox:
- The illness usually starts with one to two days of fever, aches and pains and feeling out of sorts.
- An itchy, spotty rash then develops, turning from spots to blisters to scabs and crusts. How many spots appear varies from person to person; some people hardly have any, while others are covered head to toe.
- The infection is spread in the fluid found in chickenpox blisters and the droplets in the cough or sneeze of someone with the infection.
- Chickenpox is contagious from one to two days before the rash appears until all the blisters have scabbed over. This takes about five days. It is important you keep your little one contained while they are contagious.
As parents, we understand that getting chickenpox is part and parcel of childhood, with many of us making sure our kids catch it as young as possible to get it over with.
In fact, according to research conducted by Empathy for MSD Ireland, 3 in 10 parents claim they have exposed their kids to others with chickenpox so that they can contract the infection.
However, chickenpox is not something to be taken lightly. It can lead to a number of serious complications, as well as have an economic impact on homes.
According to the research, almost three-quarters of parents with dependent children said they or their partner had to take time off work to mind their kids when they were sick.
And it’s not just a day or two either. Almost 2 in 5 parents claim they took between 4 to 6 days off work when their child got chickenpox, with almost a quarter (23%) having to take seven or more days off.
With the average daily income per person being €146.30, taking all that time off can have a huge impact financially.
What are the complications of chickenpox?
While cases are usually mild, chickenpox can lead to serious complications, especially in adults, pregnant women, newborn babies and people with weakened immune systems.
- Complications for those in high-risk groups include lung infections which can cause a persistent cough, breathing difficulties and chest pains.
- Infections caused by the bacteria can also get into the skin leading it to become red, swollen and painful.
- For pregnant women, there is a risk that the infection will pass through to the baby or cause birth defects.
How to ease symptoms:
According to the research, half of parents feel that a chickenpox vaccination would prevent complications such as itchy skin or scarring for their children.
And almost 6 in 10 of parents with children aged 9 or under claim they would be likely to consider preventative measures for their children in relation to chickenpox.
How can you ease the symptoms once your little one has it?
Chickenpox will clear up by itself for the most part. However, there are a few things you can do to help ease any discomfort and/or relieve the itch.
- Paracetamol can help relieve any pain and fever associated with the illness
- Certain products like calamine lotion can help with the itch
- Never give a child aspirin if they have or you suspect they have chickenpox. And medication containing NSAIDs, such as ibuprofen, should also be avoided due to a risk of adverse skin reactions.
If you are unsure, it is important you talk to your pharmacist who will be able to advise you on certain products to help ease symptoms.
Where to get help:
When it comes to seeking advice on chickenpox, there are plenty of resources that you can refer to.
You can speak to your GP and/or pharmacist who will be able to provide you with plenty of information, including complications to look out for.