Chickenpox is caused by a virus called Varicella Zoster. It affects young children the most. Older children may be affected too. Adults who do not have immunity against Varicella Zoster virus can get the disease.
People who were affected by chickenpox in the past or had chickenpox vaccination are less likely to get chickenpox.
You are at more risk of getting chickenpox if you :
- Did not have vaccination before
- Never had chickenpox before
- Work in a school or facility for children
Symptoms appear after about 1 to 2 weeks after you have been in contact with an affected person. Loss of appetite, feeling ill, headache and fever are the usual presenting symptoms.
Red itchy macules appear on the trunk initially, later spread all over the body. Macules turn into vesicles which crust and form dry scabs over next 5 to 10 days.
Mode of transmission
The infection is contagious 1 to 2 days before the appearance of rash until all the blisters crust and form dry scabs.
The virus spreads through air when an infected person coughs or sneezes. It also spreads when a person comes into contact with the secretions from the blisters or saliva of an infected person. Chickenpox can be spread indirectly by touching contaminated items that are freshly soiled, such as clothing from an infected person.
Treatment is mostly with supportive measures. Most people recover in about two weeks.
- Paracetamol can be given to your child with doctor’s advice. Avoid giving anti-inflammatory painkillers and Aspirin to your child.
- You can apply calamine lotion for itchy skin rash.
- Chickenpox is more common in summer. Try to stay in cooler places like under a fan, dab itchy areas with a cold washcloth to keep sweat and hot weather from worsening the itching and irritation from the rash.
- Wear loose fitting comfortable cotton clothes.
- Don’t scratch; this will prevent secondary infection and scarring.
- Cut your nails and keep your hands clean.
- Drink plenty of fluids ( avoid sugary drinks and colas) to stay well hydrated.
- Persons with compromised immunity will be offered Acyclovir. People who consulted doctor before 24 hours of appearance of rash may also be offered Acyclovir, an antiviral medicine which may reduce the severity of symptoms
Adults are at more risk for complications like Pneumonia, compared to children.
If your child is lethargic, having unremitting fever, or not eating and drinking well, it is time to consult the doctor. Meningitis, an infection of the membranes that cover the brain is one of the complications. Redness around the rash and tenderness may be the signs of infection and seek medical attention.
Even after the infection subsides, Varicella vaccine stays dormant in the nerve cells for years. In some people, when immunity is compromised, it can present as Shingles with rash and pain in a specific nerve distribution area of the skin. Shingles vaccine is given to people older than 65 years, because it is most common in elderly
It is best to keep children at home when they have infection to prevent the spread of infection to other children and personnel at school. Vaccinating all children as recommended by Indian Academy of Pediatrics is the best way to prevent Chickenpox.
Prevention by Vaccination
- All children need to be vaccinated with first dose of Chickenpox vaccine at the age of 12 to 15 months. Booster dose has to be given at 4 to 6 years of age.
- Older children and adults who were not vaccinated before and never had the infection can get vaccinated with two doses of vaccine at least 1 month apart.
- Pregnant women and women who wish to get pregnant in the next 1 month should not receive chickenpox vaccine.
- People who have medical conditions or taking medicines that affect their immune system should not receive chickenpox vaccine.
- Consult a doctor before taking the vaccine.
- Pregnant women should stay away from people who have chickenpox. Pregnant women who were not vaccinated, never had chickenpox infection and who are exposed to a person having chickenpox are at risk of exposing the baby to the virus and should contact their doctor immediately.
For more information about Varicella Vaccine, Visit this site: http://acvip.org/professional/columns/varicella-vaccine
– Dr.Lavanya Aribandi, Chief Medical Officer, eKincare