Chicken Pox (Herpes Varicella Zoster)

OVERVIEW

You might have heard or been told that one way to prevent certain diseases is to avoid contact with the sick person, items used by such a person, or disinfect surfaces you suspect the ill person might have touched.

At such times, you may wonder why such a precaution is taken. The answer is simple; some diseases are contagious. Meaning they can be spread through contact with saliva, mucus, or blood from an infected person. They can also be spread through contact with surfaces that have been touched by the organism causing the disease; Chickenpox is one such disease.

Chickenpox typically affects the skin and can cause rash, fever, and muscle aches. It can be serious if not treated properly, and sometimes, it can lead to pneumonia.

Causes: What Causes Chickenpox?

Chickenpox is caused by a virus known as Varicella zoster. This virus is also responsible for another disease called shingles and is transmitted from person to person by close contact with an infected person’s droplets. It is most contagious during the first 2 to 3 days of a person's illness.

Who is at Risk of Chickenpox?

Chickenpox is common among children but can also occur in teenagers. Other persons at risk of chickenpox include:

  • Adults Who Never Had Chickenpox
  • Adults Who Had Chickenpox as a Child
  • Pregnant Women
  • Immunocompromised Individuals

Symptoms: What are the Symptoms of Chickenpox

Symptoms of chickenpox usually develop one to three days after exposure. The most common symptom of chickenpox is a mild fever, usually accompanied by a sore throat, headache, runny nose, cough, and fatigue. Other symptoms include:

  • Fatigue
  • Abdominal pain
  • Loss of appetite
  • Itchy rash
  • Blisters filled with fluid that later turn to scabs
  • Confusion
  • Diarrhea
  • Ear infection (otitis media)
  • Eye irritation
  • Insomnia

Treatment: How is Chickenpox Treated?

Antiviral Medications

There are a few different antiviral medications that can treat chickenpox. They all work similarly by attacking the virus and stopping it from replicating. The most popular antiviral drugs for chickenpox are

  • Acyclovir (Zovirax)
  • Valacyclovir (Valtrex)

Pain Relief

Pain relief is one of the most common benefits associated with chickenpox treatment. Many people find that over-the-counter pain relievers (ibuprofen or acetaminophen) help relieve their symptoms.

Fever Reduction

Chickenpox fever is another common symptom of the disease, and it can be challenging to reduce. Drinking plenty of fluids, taking ibuprofen or acetaminophen as needed, and resting are effective ways to reduce fever.

Hydration

There are a few things that you can do to keep yourself hydrated during chickenpox. Drink plenty of fluids, avoid caffeine and alcohol.

Skin Care

Skincare is an important part of chickenpox treatment.

  • It would be best if you avoid exposure to the sun.
  • Also, avoid scratching the skin, leading to secondary infection.
  • Have an oatmeal bath to reduce the itch
  • Apply calamine lotion for itchy rash

Prevention: How can Chickenpox be Prevented?

The best way to prevent chickenpox is to get vaccinated. Children should receive their first dose of the vaccine between 12 and 15 months old and a second dose at 4 to 6 years old. Adults should get the vaccine if they haven't had it before.

Aside from vaccination, you can prevent chickenpox by taking certain precautions, including

  • Avoid contact with people who have chickenpox.
  • Disinfect surfaces and objects that may have been exposed to the virus
  • Get treatment if you are infected
  • Cover your mouth when you cough
  • Wash your hands with soap and water for at least 20 seconds
  • Clean shared items with household cleaners and disinfectant
  • Stay home, do not go to work or school until the illness resolves
  • If you get sick, stay home from school or work, rest, and drink plenty of fluids

Complications: What are the Potential Complications of Chickenpox?

Complications of chickenpox can vary widely, but the most common are:

  • Pneumonia
  • Encephalitis (a brain infection), and
  • Sepsis
  • Bleeding Problems
  • Death

Although chickenpox rarely results in death, it can make the skin less attractive and cause some problems, so it is vital to get checked if you experience symptoms.

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Palm Beach Dermatology has been serving patients in and around Palm Beach County for over twenty years, we are a full-service dermatology and dermatological surgery practice with special emphasis on the diagnosis and treatment of skin cancer. All physicians in our group are Board Certified by The American Board of Dermatology and are Fellows of the American Academy of Dermatology. We invite you to visit us at Palm Beach Dermatology to find out why you can trust our skin care team.

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