Chickenpox is a very common viral skin problem that will affect most people at some point in their lives.
It usually occurs during childhood, but adults who never had chickenpox as a child can also catch it. Once you’ve had it, you’ll normally be immune for life.
While chickenpox is rarely serious, if your rash lasts longer than a week or you have questions about the best way to manage symptoms, our doctors will be more than happy to help.
Symptoms of Chickenpox
You probably already know the main symptom of chickenpox, which is a red, spotty rash. This appears in three stages.
The first thing to appear are small, red spots. These are quickly followed by pus-filled blisters. These then burst and crust over. It’s this final stage that causes another infamous symptom of chickenpox - itching. The scabs left behind by the rash will fall off in a few days, and providing you resist the urge to scratch, there won’t be any scarring.
Some people experience other symptoms, such as a fever, loss of appetite or just generally feeling achy and tired. These symptoms are more common in older chickenpox sufferers, particularly adults.
Chickenpox is very contagious, so it can be passed on very easily in a variety of ways, such as:
- Direct, skin-to-skin contact.
- Being face-to-face with an infected person.
- Being in the same room as an infected person for more than 15 minutes.
- Touching a surface or object that an infected person has touched.
The first thing to do is ensure that your child stays home and doesn’t attend school, where they would quickly spread the virus among their classmates. Adults with chickenpox should work from home if possible, and certainly shouldn’t go into their office or usual place of work.
There’s nothing you can do to speed the chickenpox virus along. It’ll normally pass within a week by itself. However, you can take steps to manage its symptoms.
Paracetamol can be used to soothe any pain or discomfort - remember that aspirin must never be given to children! A cold compress may provide some relief from a fever, while it’s important to stay hydrated.
Products such as calamine lotion can be used to manage itching and help people resist the urge to scratch.
Possible Complications of Chickenpox
Chickenpox can cause complications for certain people, such as pregnant women, people with a weak immune system and newborns.
If you get chickenpox while you’re pregnant, there’s a danger that the virus could pass to your unborn baby. You should speak to a doctor in this case.
Chickenpox can sometimes allow a separate bacterial skin infection to develop. This can leave your skin red, swollen and painful. If you’re concerned, a doctor will be able to help you manage the symptoms and treat the underlying cause.
In later life, some people may suffer from a reactivation of the chickenpox virus, which can lead to other skin problems such as shingles.
Recent cases have highlighted that serious infections such as septicaemia are more common in children who take ibuprofen to try and manage chickenpox symptoms. To avoid the risks, it’s recommended that you don’t give them this sort of medication. Speak to your doctor about safe alternatives.