Caused by the varicella-zoster virus (VZV), chickenpox used to be a common illness among kids in the Canada (particularly among those under age 12). An itchy rash of spots that look like blisters can appear all over the body and be accompanied by flu-like symptoms. Chickenpox is very contagious, so an infected child should stay home and rest until the rash is gone.
Chicken pox is transferred between children by coughing, by touching the fluid in the blisters.
Please keep your child home until their rash has healed. Please phone the Community Health Nurse @ 250-740-2337.
Kids can be protected from VZV by getting the chickenpox (varicella) vaccine. The vaccine significantly reduces the chances of getting chickenpox. Vaccinated kids who do get chickenpox tend to have milder cases and quicker recoveries compared to those who contract the virus and aren't immunized.
Chickenpox often starts with a fever, headache, sore throat, or stomachache. These symptoms may last for a few days, with fever in the 101°-102°F (38.3°-38.8°C) range.
Chickenpox causes a red, itchy skin rash that usually appears first on the abdomen or back and face, and then spreads to almost everywhere else on the body, including the scalp, mouth, arms, legs, and genitals.
The rash begins as multiple small red bumps that look like pimples or insect bites, usually less than a quarter of an inch wide. They appear in crops over 2 to 4 days and develop into thin-walled blisters filled with fluid. The blister walls break, leaving open sores, which finally crust over to become dry, brown scabs. The rash is very itchy, and cool baths or calamine lotion may help to manage the itching. In rare cases, serious bacterial infections involving the skin, lungs, bones, joints, and the brain can occur.
Certain groups of people are more at risk for complications from chickenpox, including pregnant women and anyone with immune system problems. These groups should avoid others who have chickenpox.
The chickenpox vaccine is 99% effective in kids.
It’s recommended that kids receive the chickenpox vaccine twice — when they're 12 to 15 months old, with a booster shot at 4 to 6 years old. People 13 years of age and older who have never had chickenpox or haven't gotten the vaccine should receive two doses of the vaccine. Healthy kids who have had chickenpox do not need the vaccine — they usually have lifelong protection against the illness.
Dealing With Discomfort
To help relieve the itchiness, fever, and discomfort of chickenpox:
- Use cool wet compresses or give baths in cool or lukewarm water every 3 to 4 hours for the first few days. Oatmeal bath products, available at supermarkets and drugstores, can help to relieve itching. (Baths do not spread the rash.)
- Pat (don't rub) the body dry.
- Put calamine lotion on itchy areas (but don't use it on the face, especially near the eyes).
- Serve foods that are cold, soft, and bland because chickenpox in the mouth can make drinking or eating difficult. Avoid feeding your child anything highly acidic or especially salty, like orange juice or pretzels.
- Ask your doctor or pharmacist about pain-relieving creams to apply to sores in the genital area.
- Give your child acetaminophen regularly to help relieve pain if your child has mouth blisters.
- Ask the doctor about using over-the-counter medication for itching.
Never use aspirin to reduce pain or fever in kids with chickenpox because aspirin has been associated with the serious disease Reye syndrome, which can lead to liver failure and even death. As much as possible, discourage kids from scratching. This can be difficult for them, so consider putting mittens or socks on your child's hands to prevent scratching during sleep. In addition, trim fingernails and keep them clean to help lessen the effects of scratching, including broken blisters and infection.
Most chickenpox infections require no special medical treatment. But sometimes, there are problems. Call the doctor if your child:
- has fever that lasts for more than 4 days or rises above 102°F (38.8°C)
- has a severe cough or trouble breathing
- has an area of rash that leaks pus (thick, yellowish fluid) or becomes red, warm, swollen, or sore
- has a severe headache
- is unusually drowsy or has trouble waking up
- has trouble looking at bright lights
- has difficulty walking
- seems confused
- seems very ill or is vomiting
- has a stiff neck
Call the health nurse or your doctor if you think your child has chickenpox and you have a question or are concerned about a possible complication.
If you take your child to the doctor, let the office know in advance that your child might have chickenpox. It's important to try to avoid exposing other kids in the office — for some of them, a chickenpox infection could cause severe complications.