What causes chickenpox?
Symptoms of chickenpox
- Rash of red itchy spots that turn into fluid filled blisters
- These fluid filled blisters will eventually crust over to form scabs.
- Often accompanied by flu-like symptoms including fever, aching muscles, headache, nausea
- Transmission occurs when blisters burst and fluid contaminates surrounding objects and surfaces
- Virus may be spread further by subsequent transferral from one infected object to another
- Virus is also present in the saliva and mucous of an infected person and can be transmitted by coughing and sneezing
- It is normally 14-16 days after initial infection when symptoms start to develop, although this can vary from as little as 7 to as many as 21 days
- A person suffering from chickenpox infection is at their most infectious from 1 to 2 days before the development of the rash up until the point when all the blisters have completely scabbed over
Treatment of chickenpox
- Chickenpox infection is usually mild and providing there are factors that predispose to complications (e.g. pregnancy, immunosuppression), several over the counter medications should be considered for symptomatic relief
- Suitable treatments include painkillers (such as paracetamol for pain and fever), antihistamines (for itching), and calamine lotion or other cooling products (to relieve discomfort, irritation, and itching associated with the rash and blisters)
- Advise patients who have a child suffering from chickenpox to keep their hands covered with socks or gloves to prevent scratching. If this is not possible, trimming nails will also help to control scratching
- Cool clothing or apply cool wet towels to the skin to relieve discomfort and itching
- Blisters should be cleaned on a daily basis.
When to refer
- If the eyes are affected by chickenpox rash/blisters
- Persistent coughing and/or difficulty breathing
- Severe headache and persistent vomiting
- Signs of secondary infection of blisters
- Rash lasts for over two weeks
Chickenpox and Shingles
Most people only suffer chickenpox infection once. However, once the varicella-zoster virus has infected someone, it remains in a dormant state in the body until a stimulus reawakens the virus resulting in shingles.