Coming down with the chicken pox is one of the worst experiences a person can go through. For children, it's a week of uncomfortable itching and unsightly boils all over their body. For teens and adults, it's a more severe infection that usually requires antiviral drugs to reduce the risk of complications.
What is Chicken Pox?
Chicken pox is a very contagious illness that typically occurs during a person's childhood, from 4 to 10 years of age. Those infected will find themselves covered with hundreds of red, itchy blisters, filled with fluid that can burst and become crusted. Here are some things you should know about the chicken pox:
- It is caused by the varicella zoster virus (VZV).
- The illness is highly contagious, requiring the infected person to stay at home during the duration of the contagious period, which typically lasts from four to five days.
- Chicken pox is an airborne disease that is commonly spread through coughing, sneezing or having direct contact with fluids that secrete from the blisters.
- Has the appearance of a severe rash that can appear almost anywhere on the body.
- Children usually develop up to 500 of the itchy, red blisters all over their skin.
- It commonly starts from the head, face and scalp, and spreads from there.
| Chicken Pox on an Adult
|| Chicken Pox on a Child
Chicken Pox Symptoms
In children, common ailments start just before the chicken pox rash breaks out. Symptoms include:
- Stomach ache
- Loss of appetite
After the first couple of days after the rash has appeared, the blisters will start to get cloudy, then harden and begin to scab. More groups of the rash will continue to form. Those infected do not need to worry about scarring unless they scratch at the scabs, which can cause infection.
Chicken pox will resolve on its own after several weeks, with no real cure available for the condition. Home treatments are recommended to prevent further complications, and to help the ailment subside as smoothly as possible.
- Personal hygiene: Personal hygiene is very important for a person who is afflicted by chicken pox. Good hygiene can help to prevent infections, especially in areas where dirt can get trapped like on the hair. Shampoo hair daily with a mild shampoo and take baths in lukewarm water.
- No scratching: Constant scratching is one of the easiest ways to make the chicken pox condition even worse; it can lead to infection and scarring. People who come down with the chicken pox should make sure their nails are always clipped, and should even were gloves as a precautionary measure. When drying the infected person's body after a bath, remember to pat them down, don't rub.
- Lotions and creams: Itch-relieving lotions and skin creams are the most common treatments used to help someone get through the chicken pox. Calamine lotion can be applied to the skin to help relieve itching. A physician can also prescribe an antihistamine to help with the itching. Topical lotions and antiviral medications, like acyclovir, are also available for use on the infected person.
- Stay cool: Heat and sweat can induce discomfort and exacerbate the itching caused by the chicken pox. Try keeping the infected person in a cool area, and use cool, wet compresses to help relieve itching.
- Herbal remedies: There are numerous herbal remedies that have been shown to be quite useful on someone infected with the chicken pox, whether they are ingested, like in a cup of tea, or applied on the skin through a herbal bath. Oatmeal baths have been known to be quite effective for relieving the itching. St. John's Wort and Burdock can also be added to a lukewarm bath, or they can be ingested with tea.
- Rest: The most important home treatment for chicken pox is getting plenty of rest at home; the body is more than capable of fighting off the illness by itself.
Things to Avoid
- Oily, spicy or acidic food. Anything that might affect the infected person's skin or might make eating difficult if the chicken pox is around the mouth area. For example, you want to avoid any spicy foods that can make your body hot, causing you to sweat.
- Aspirin, which can cause complications and secondary infections in some people.
- If you use calamine lotion to relieve itchy areas, avoid using it around the face, especially near the person's eyes.
- Pregnant women are at high risk for severe complications if they become infected by the chicken pox. Should this ever occur, seek medical attention immediately.
- While most people develop several hundred red spots throughout their bodies, those with skin problems, like eczema, can get up to 1,000 or more pox.
- It is possible for adults who have already experienced the chicken pox to become infected with another ailment caused by VZV known as shingles. Similar to chicken pox, shingles is a painful skin rash that blisters, typically on one side of the body. There is no definitive explanation as to why the disease becomes active again after a person has already been infected by the chicken pox. Treatments for the shingles are similar to chicken pox, and your physician can prescribe antivirals to help fight the virus.