Chickenpox In Babies & Children

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It has been rightly said that prevention is always better than cure. If you want to prevent a disease in your child, it is important that you know everything about it. There are several health concerns that a mother has for her child, and chicken pox is one that can give many parents nightmares. This article will you get a thorough insight into the disease. Find out the causes, symptoms, and remedies of chicken pox so you can safeguard your children.

What Is Chicken Pox?

Chickenpox, which is also known as varicella, is a viral infection. It is characterised by small, itchy rashes or blisters all over the body along with flu-like symptoms and fever. When the infection increases, the rashes turn into fluid-filled blisters, and as they dry up, scabs and crust form on them. While some children will only have a few rashes on their bodies, other affected children may have blisters all over. The rashes generally appear on the face, ears, arms, chest, stomach, and legs. Chickenpox is a highly contagious disease and can easily infect anyone who comes into contact with the infected child. This disease is a common illness in children below 12 years of age.

Is Chickenpox Infectious?

Chickenpox is a very contagious disease and can easily spread from one child to another. It can spread through

  • Direct contact
  • Indirect Contact

Direct contact means spreading of infection through kissing and saliva. Therefore, if your child has chickenpox, refrain from kissing the child. Indirect contact means spreading of infection through coming in indirect contact with blister fluids. The infection can even spread through cough, and sneeze of the infected child. Though chickenpox is very contagious in humans, the virus does not spread to pets like dogs or cats.

Causes

Chickenpox is caused by varicella zoster virus or VZV. This virus causes painful rashes on the body. Infants and children can easily get infected with this highly contagious virus. Most of the times, it becomes very difficult to find out how and when your baby got this infection. This is because the virus can spread even before the appearance of the first pustule on the body. Therefore, an infant coming into direct contact with anyone with this infection can get infected. Once infected, the pustules start to appear on the child’s body as early as a week of getting the infection or as late as two to three weeks.

Symptoms Of Chickenpox

Chickenpox infection usually starts with flu-like symptoms. Signs of chickenpox in infants and children include the following:

  • Fever
  • Headache
  • Nausea
  • Stomach ache
  • Pains and aches
  • Loss of appetite

The rashes will start to appear on the baby’s body a few days after he has been infected. These little red bumps will be noticeable on your baby’s face first and then they will spread to the other parts of the body. This includes areas such as the arms, torso, and legs. A few babies will only have mild blisters but in some babies, the blisters come in clusters and appear to run into one another. These chickenpox blisters are sorer in the delicate areas such as mouth, scalp, and groin. The can also be painful, so make sure that your baby is wearing loose garments. The infection can spread a few days before the appearance of the rash and even when the rash has completely dried out.

Complications Of Chickenpox

If proper care during chickenpox is not given, complications can arise in children. These complications include:

  • Skin infection. Some sores can get infected by repeated scratching and result in skin infection
  • Scarring from the sores

In rare circumstances, some serious complications can arise, such as:

  • Inflammation of brain, also known as encephalitis. This can affect muscle coordination in children
  • Inflammation of lungs, also known as varicella pneumonia
  • Inflammation of kidneys
  • Appendicitis
  • Inflammation of heart muscles
  • Inflammation of joints

Though these complications are very rare, one needs to exercise proper caution to avoid such problems.

Shingles

Shingles is a skin rash. It is caused by the same virus that causes chickenpox. If your child has already had a bout of chickenpox then this virus stays in the nerve cells of the spine. Though it does not affect the functioning of the nerves, this virus can cause shingles in the later stages of life. Shingles are rarely seen in children below 12 years of age. It is more common in older people than in children.

Diagnosing Chicken Pox

Diagnosing chickenpox in your child in the initial stage can be tricky as the symptoms are the same as flu. The child will have a fever, running nose, headache, cough, and may feel extremely fatigued. There may be a loss of appetite too. It is only after a few days that the child will show substantial symptoms such as the appearance of rashes on the face and other parts of the body including genitals. Some children will only have a few spots on the body whereas other children might have plenty. These spots will cause pain and itching. As soon as you register these symptoms in your child, it is important to seek medical help at the earliest to stop the infection from spreading further.

How To Treat Chickenpox In Children?

Your child’s immune system is what fights the chickenpox virus. The treatment recommended by the doctor will include easing the pain and discomfort of the child. Apart from that, the following things can also take care of some of the issues related to chicken pox:

  • Fever – Proper medication will be given to the child to control the fever. One of the most popular medicines used is Acyclovir. It must be administered as soon as 24 hours after the first rashes break out for the best results
  • Blisters and sores – Creams and ointments are prescribed to keep provide relief from the itch and speed up healing of the sores. Calamine is one such lotion that can ease the scratching and also feel nice on the child’s skin
  • Comfortable clothes – The child should be dressed in comfortable cotton clothes. Dressing them in light clothes will help them feel much more comfortable and not raise their body temperature
  • Clipping the finger nails – The child’s nails should be clipped so that the child cannot scratch the blisters
  • Keep the child hydrated and fed – Enough fluids should be given to the child to avoid dehydration. Try to give them water and avoid spicy food or sugary drinks like cola or milkshakes, especially if the chickenpox has spread to the mouth, as such foods and drinks can aggravate the pain. You can give your child eggs, chicken or any meat as it has lysine which helps in the healing process. Other recommended foods include garlic, coconut oil and apple cider vinegar
  • Neem leaves – Need leaves are another great way to prevent the sores from hurting. You can either crush them into a paste and apply it or boil the leaves and use a washcloth after it cools down
  • Gauze pads – Soaking a gauze pad in bicarbonate soda and water and applying them on the wounds is another way to reduce the itchy feeling
  • Mittens and socks – By having your kids put on mittens or socks on their hands, you can prevent them from itching their skin, which can otherwise lead to scarring

Prevention

Chicken pox in babies can easily be prevented with the chickenpox vaccination. Children who have had a chickenpox shot get 80 to 90 percent protection from this infection. The question is can you get chickenpox after being vaccinated?

Some children who do not develop complete protection from the virus may have a bout of chickenpox after being exposed to the infection. However, this bout of chickenpox is milder, causes fewer rashes, and almost no fever. Chickenpox vaccination is given to the child after 12 months to 15 months and a booster dose is also recommended from 4 to 6 years of age.

The vaccination can be given as a single vaccination for chickenpox alone or in formulation with other vaccination that comes as MMRV (mumps, measles, rubella, and varicella).

Other methods of prevention of the disease include not allowing your child to come in contact with an infected person as the disease can spread. It is important that the child understands the situation as he/she could feel left out during this delicate time. Also, maintaining hygiene will enable the child to build a stronger immune system against the occurrence of such diseases. However, the best way is to ensure that your child is administered with the chickenpox vaccine.

Chicken Pox Vaccine

Some parents believe that it is unnecessary to give chicken pox vaccine to a small baby. This is because babies get a milder bout of chicken pox as compared to adults. Their bodies fight the infection on its own without much difficulty. However, many health practitioners recommend this vaccine. It is advisable to get protection against chickenpox with a chickenpox vaccine as sometimes the complications can turn fatal. There are scenarios where the child can have a serious infection in the brain, liver, kidney or other parts of the body.

These vaccines are easily available with all healthcare providers. Chicken pox vaccines are extremely safe to be administered to small babies. Though this vaccine is costly, it provides protection to your baby.

Types Of Chicken Pox Vaccine

The chicken pox vaccination is very effective in treating this viral infection. Though in most cases the vaccine provides complete protection from the disease, in some cases the child still might get this infection. Symptoms of chickenpox in vaccinated children are very mild and do not cause much discomfort. Therefore, it is always recommended to get a chicken pox vaccine in comparison to letting the child’s immune system fight the disease. There are two types of chicken pox vaccines:

  • Varicella– This vaccine is given for the protection of chicken pox only

  • MMRV- This is a combined vaccine for mumps, measles, rubella, and varicella and works effectively to protect the body against chicken pox

When You Should Give Chicken Pox Vaccine

Chicken pox vaccine can be given as soon as one year after the birth of your child. The vaccine is given in two shots which should be at least three months apart. Therefore, the first schedule of medicine should take place between 12 months to 15 months. The second schedule or the booster dosage is given to the child between 4 to 6 years of age. If by any chance this schedule is missed then a child of 13 or more years can receive two doses at 1 month apart.

Is Chicken Pox Vaccine Safe?

Chickenpox vaccine is effective in the prevention of chicken pox and it is also very safe for babies. The vaccine helps your child to fight the infection by developing antibodies in the body. This vaccination involves injection of a weakened form of the virus in your child. Though there may be some redness and pain, it will gradually subside.

While it is entirely up to the parents to take a call on whether or not to get the child vaccinated against chicken pox, it is recommended by heath experts. Chicken pox in vaccinated children is milder and does not cause much discomfort.

Side-Effect Of Chickenpox Vaccine

Chickenpox vaccine is extremely safe and effective and does not cause any side effects. But in a few children, this vaccine can cause various side-effects after getting the vaccine. Just like any other medicine, the chicken pox vaccine can also cause some complications in children such as:

  • Running nose, pain in the throat
  • Muscle or joint pain
  • Fever
  • Redness, swelling or pain where the vaccine was administered
  • Skin rash
  • Fatigue
  • Headache
  • Problem in sleeping

Apart from the above-mentioned complications, there are some serious complications that can also arise in rare cases, such as:

  • Very high fever
  • Difficulty in breathing
  • Discomfort in the chest
  • Easy bleeding and bruising
  • Change in behaviour
  • Seizure

If any of the above symptoms occur, it is advised to seek medical help at once to avoid any further complications.

Can Child With Chickenpox Go To School?

Chicken pox is highly contagious and can spread easily from one child to another. Therefore, it is not advisable to send your child to school when your child has chicken pox. The infection becomes active even before the appearance of the first spot or rash. Thus, the decision to not send them to school can be made as soon as you notice a rash or spot on your child’s body for a day or two. If this is accompanied by a fever,f then this could be the very first stage of the viral infection. The infection can easily spread from a cough or a sneeze of the infected child. Till the time all the blisters dry up, and no new scabs are formed, you should refrain from sending your child to school. The child should be made to stay home and rest until the time the infection subsides.

Conclusion: Chicken pox is extremely contagious but with proper caution and care this infection can be kept at bay. It is advised to get your baby immunised against the disease as it reduces the chances of your baby getting this viral infection.