Chickenpox

Chickenpox is a contagious disease caused by a virus called varicella zoster. Based on the virus, the disease is also called varicella. Chickenpox can affect children and adults alike.

The disease is an airborne and the infection spreads through coughing, sneezing, etc. in addition to contact of the body of the infected person. Chickenpox also spreads through contact of objects associated with a person already infected as there are chances of the fluid from the blisters to spread on the objects too.

The disease affects people all over the world. In fact many children were affected by the virus in olden days. But after immunization medicines have been discovered world over newborns are immunized for the virus. Due to compulsory immunization of the child chickenpox is now fairly prevented throughout the world. Routine immunization is carried out in most of the countries as a preventive measure.

Symptoms of Chickenpox

Skin rashes with small and itchy blisters are characteristics of chickenpox. Before the symptom becomes visible the body could have already contacted the disease two to three weeks before. In other words, the incubation period of the virus is about 15 to 21 days.

When a person is infected by the virus the rashes and blisters first appear on the chest and back of the body and then spread to the face and other parts of the body. The infection causes hundreds of blisters all over the body. Besides the visible symptoms, a person with smallpox may have other symptoms like fever, fatigue and headache. In serious cases pneumonia and inflammation of the brain may also occur. THE disease is generally more severe in adults than in children.  Chickenpox largely affects children up to 15 years of age if not immunized with chickenpox vaccine.

Normally the itchy blisters develop in clusters starting from the chest throughout the body. Initially red spots are noticed, then form blisters. The clusters of blister keep surfacing all through the cycle of the disease. Each group of blisters start drying up in just about two days. Thereafter the crusts formed fall on their own within about ten days.

During the entire period of the disease, fresh clusters of spots keep appearing repeatedly in different areas of the body. Such clusters of spots have varying degrees of itchiness and dryness.

Chickenpox affects a person only once during the life time as the disease do not recur. However the virus is known to remain in the body for ever which may give rise to another disease called shingles (type of viral infection) in adults over the age of 60 years.

Chickenpox is not a serious health problem even in a child but any one affected by chickenpox need to stay at home still recovery as it is highly contagious. Particularly children should not be allowed to attend school during the disease. A person affected by chickenpox is considered non-contagious only after all the sores and blisters have completely crusted and dried out.

Initial symptoms are nausea, loss of appetite and headache and later on rashes and blister occur. The blister is often itchy and appear in cluster.  When the disease affects children the general prodromal symptoms do not spear but only rash or spots appear in the oral cavity. Both in children and adults, initially the rash is noticed as small red dots on the face, scalp, torso, upper arms and legs. The symptoms gradually progress within a few days and then appear as small bumps, blisters and pustules. Thereafter formation of scabs occurs even as the disease heals.

Blisters may appear almost in all parts of the body including the palms, soles and the genital area.

Diagnosis

Chickenpox is diagnosed just by the symptoms like fatigue and fever with red spots, rashes or blisters appearing on the body. There is no need to go to a doctor for diagnosis or treatment. The disease is normally cured by home remedies like continuous resting and also by medications to reduce the fever and itching. Natural remedies are generally tried first.

What can you do when you are affected?

Some of the remedial measures during the illness are:

  • Avoiding continuous scratching of the sores
  • Keeping the nails cut well and clean in order to avoid deep scratching
  • Wearing only loose garments
  • In the case of children it is advisable to wear hand socks during nights
  • External application of calamine lotion can be done to reduce itching
  • When there is sore in the throat chewing food may be difficult. In such circumstances hot and spicy food may be avoided besides preferring to consume soups or other liquid food to maintain the energy level.

However, pregnant women need to consult a doctor as the disease may also affect the unborn child. Infection during pregnancy can cause defective births as well as severe infection of the newborn.

So also people who have other long term health disorders have to visit a doctor in order to combat the infection. When there is severe pain in addition to itching and also breathing trouble consultation with a doctor is a must.

World over, more than treatment of the disease, preventive measures are taken by administering chickenpox vaccine and preventing spreading of the disease by isolating the infected person. Global community has successfully prevented chickenpox in vast majorities of countries by appropriate immunization of infants and children.

Kripa Sivasubramanian, MBA, earned her Master’s degree in Business. After a long stint in the Technology sector, she took up courses in natural medicine and yoga. Ms. Kripa is certified in Ayurvedic yoga for Dosha. She is also certified by Stanford University School of Medicine in Introduction to Food and Health.