What is Chickenpox?
This illness used to be a very common one atleast till about the last decade or so, especially in kids, but it has become quite rarer now owing to the administration of Varicella vaccine in infants – toddlers between 12 and 15 months, followed by a booster dose at 4 to 6 years of age. Nowadays, because of this vaccine, the illness is either not manifested or has very mild symptoms unlike earlier. This illness affects children but can affect adults as well if they have not been infected by the virus as a child. The antigens produced by this illness have long memory – once affected, chicken pox doesn’t usually recur in that individual in his entire lifetime.
How is it caused?
Chicken pox is caused by the varicella zoster virus. It is a very contagious disease and so kids and adults who maybe infected must stay at home, isolated if possible. The itchy rashes that are produced are infectious, so caution is advised.
How does chicken pox spread?
Chickenpox is an viral disease that spreads through air – sneeze and cough from an infected person can spread very easily through air. It can start spreading about 1-2 days before rashes start to appear until the boils/blisters are formed. The illness can spread through the blisters as well. This illness is usually diagnosed on the basis of the symptoms shown by the patient.
What are the signs and symptoms of Chicken Pox?
The illness can by symptomized as follows:
- The illness usually starts with a headache, fever, flu-like symptoms
- Fever is usually seen in the range 38.3°-38.8°C (101 – 102 degree Fahrenheit)
- Red, itchy skin rashes seen on abdomen, face, back which slowly spreads to the rest of the body viz scalp, arms, legs etc
- Rashes start as small red insect bite like bumps. Spread as crops in the next couple of days and develop into blisters that is filled with fluid. These blisters break and this stage can be infectious as much as rashes stage. The blisters slowly dry out leaving brown scars. The rashes can be very itchy and most often calamine lotion is prescribed.
In countries like India, where Neem (Azadirachta indica)is commonly seen, known for its amazing anti-viral properties is made use of. Neem leaves are usually added to the water that is used to bathe in or if itchy, neem leaves are rubbed across the body to relieve the itching.
How can chickenpox be treated?
There is actually no cure for the illness, the symptoms usually reduce over time without any treatment.
It is important to only prevent the spreading – isolation and cleanliness. The patient if an adult, can be isolated so that the blisters and rashes do not spread to the others in the home. If kids are affected, it can be quite a task to keep them away from the other residents of that home. Frequent cleaning of the house becomes necessary to prevent any further spreading.
Itching can be addressed as mentioned above, although it is better to talk to your doctor before you decide on anything.
Mild, oil-free food must be part of the diet with the inclusion of lots of fluids such as tender coconut water to cool the body.
If fever is present, doctors may prescribe an analgesic to keep the fever down.
On the whole, children who have been given the Varicella vaccine will either not get chicken pox or even if they do, it would be a low-grade one with faster recuperation. However, adults who have not been exposed to the virus need to take care.
Keep yourselves hydrated and stay away from illness.
Get your children vaccinated, if you haven’t done it yet.
by Hridya Anand
A biochemist by education who could never put what she studied to good use, finally found GetDoc as a medium to do what she loved - bring information to people using a forum that is dedicated to all things medical. View all articles by Hridya Anand.