Imagine that your daughter comes home with a raging fever. Imagine that the next day red spots covering her whole body from head to toes. Imagine that she is cranky and irritable and confined at home for many days. All this can happen when she falls prey to chicken pox.
Chicken pox is one of the most common childhood infections caused by the varicella-zoster virus. It can spread through the air by droplets from a sneeze or cough. It can also spread through contact with infected persons and their clothes or beddings. The onset of symptoms is seen 10 to 21 days after exposure. Red fluid-filled bumps appear all over the body; sometimes they ooze fluid and then dry up and scab. When these pustules occur within the eyes or in the private parts, it can be quite painful.
This is not all…there is also a possibility of permanent scarring. Moreover, chicken pox can lead to severe complications like pneumonia, severe skin infections and encephalitis or brain infection. 1 And your child is especially vulnerable to it when he/she is in the pre-school and the school-going age. This is the time when he/ she will be sharing germs along with lunch boxes …
The main symptom of chickenpox is an uncomfortable, itchy rash. It generally starts on the face, chest, and back and then spreads to the rest of the body. Other symptoms may include
- Loss of appetite
If your child gets chicken pox, he/ she will go through extreme discomfort. He/ she may be restless during the day and sleepless during the night. He/ she may refuse meals and lose weight. He/ she will have to be confined to the house for 10-15 days. He/ she may miss out on school and other activities. If chicken pox unfortunately strikes before or during exams, it may lead to the loss of a whole academic year.
No parent will want to see their child suffer in this manner and the best strategy to ensure that it does not happen is by giving children the varicella vaccination. This vaccine is given in two doses; first dose at the age of 15 months and the second dose generally between 4 to 6 years. This second dose can be given at any time 3 months after the 1st dose. 2
The first dose of chicken pox vaccine by itself may not be sufficient to prevent outbreaks in school settings where exposure can be intense, hence giving the second dose early may prove beneficial. 3
To summarize, although varicella is a mild disease, it may cause severe complications and lead to hospitalization in about 2–6% of patients.4 The best way to avert this is by vaccinating your child with 2 doses of the varicella vaccine.
Tips to prevent chicken pox
- Avoid visiting or playing with infected children
- Get him vaccinated with both the doses as early as possible
Tips for parents
- Dress your child in loose-fitting cotton clothes
- Give him/ her a lukewarm bath
- Avoid harsh soaps
- Try to distract the child by showing him/ her a movie
- Trim your child’s nails and put mittens on their hands to prevent them from bursting their blisters.
- Monitor his/ her temperature
- Keep him/ her well-hydrated
- 2001 Nov;108(5):E79.
- 2006 Jun;117(6):e1070-7.
- Ther Adv Vaccines. 2014 Mar; 2(2): 39–55.