Chickenpox is a very contagious self-limited childhood skin infection caused by the varicella-zoster virus. Children aged between five and ten years old are the most affected. The disease has a worldwide distribution. Most children affected by the disease have red, itchy spots that turn into fluid-filled blisters. These appear mostly on the face, scalp ears, arms, chest, and belly.
As said above, the cause of chickenpox is the virus known as varicella-zoster. The disease can be transmitted through droplets by a sneeze or cough or contact with clothing or discharge of blisters from an infected person. Usually, it takes 10 to 21 days prior to the manifestation of the symptoms. Chickenpox is mostly contagious before the appearance of the rash till it is fully dry and scabbed over.
The most commonly recognized symptom is an extremely irritating rash that propagates from the neck to the torso, limbs, and face. The rash lasts for 6 to 10 days and changes from red lumps to fluid-filled blisters that drain and scab over. Prior to appearance of the rash, your child may have mild flu-like symptoms including high fever, headaches, and loss of appetite and feeling sick. Even after all the spots have dried up – as well as a few days before the rash appears – chicken pox is still highly contagious.
Since chickenpox is a virus infection, there is no direct cure for it. The treatment is rather aimed at the negative symptoms that chickenpox causes. If you experience fever, your doctor may recommend acetaminophen or ibuprofen, and if you are dehydrated and unable to drink fluids, the physician may also recommend IV fluids while you are in the emergency room or admitted to the hospital. In the case where there are other secondary bacterial infections, your doctor may prescribe antibiotics.
For individuals with severe infections, an antiviral agent known as acyclovir can be given. It considerably shortens the duration and reduces the intensity of the symptoms if it is administered immediately after the onset of the rash.
Chickenpox is highly contagious condition and should be prevented by immunization. Healthy children, teens, and adults who had never experienced the disease during their childhood are administered with Varivax, a two-dose vaccine for chickenpox. Also, a combined measles, mumps, rubella, and varicella (MMRV) vaccination has been approved for children aged four years and above. For younger children, MMRV is not recommended.
If you suspect that the varicella-zoster virus has infected you or a member of your family, then you need to seek medical attention immediately to avoid the further spread of the disease.