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About chickenpox

Though chickenpox is commonly regarded as a rite of passage for most children, there are some dangers we need to be aware of. 

CHICKENPOX is regarded as a rite of passage for every child, but did you know that it can cause serious complications and make you susceptible to secondary infections later as an adult ? 

Red rashes start popping up all over your child’s body. Within several days, these pimple-like bumps turn into liquid-filled blisters. Your child develops a fever, loses his appetite and becomes increasingly irritable. He is quarantined at home and misses his lessons at preschool. 

The doctor cautions you to make sure your child does not scratch the rash ( no matter how horribly itchy it gets ) as scratching can cause a bacterial infection of the skin. 

In fact, the doctor surprises you when he mentions the possibility of other serious complications such as pneumonia or encephalitis ( inflammation of the brain ). 

You have always considered chickenpox to be a very mild, common infection. After all, everyone gets infected at least once in a lifetime and they all recover fully, do they not? 

To make matters worse, these symptoms start appearing on your younger child too. You have no choice but to take leave from work to care for them. It is very stressful to have two sick children under your care, especially when you are now three months into your pregnancy.

The virus 

Chickenpox is an infection caused by the varicella-zoster virus. The varicella-zoster virus is extremely contagious and can spread through physical contact or through the air from a sneeze or cough. 

An infected child is capable of spreading the virus two days before the rashes appear, up to the time when all blisters have dried up. 

As long as your child is healthy, the chickenpox infection will be mild and should clear up in about two weeks. However, chickenpox can be dangerous in children who have impaired immune systems, eczema or those who are taking steroid medications ( for example, asthmatic children ). 

Prevent your infected child from spreading the disease by keeping him at home and out of preschool. 

Unfortunately, it is trickier to prevent other members in the family from getting infected. The risk is very high because of close contact. Try to keep him away from pregnant women and anyone who has not had chickenpox or been vaccinated. 

Treating chickenpox entails preventing scratching and secondary infections, ensuring adequate fluids and nutrients, and monitoring for serious complications. 

An antiviral agent called acyclovir will reduce the severity but it needs to be given in the early stages of the disease.  

Life after chickenpox 

After a chickenpox infection, the varicella-zoster virus remains dormant in your child’s body. The virus can be reactivated many years later after your child grows older or if his immune system weakens. 

Also known as herpes zoster, shingles is a painful rash that can lead to post-herpetic neuralgia, a condition where the skin remains painful for months or years after the rash has cleared up.  

Prevent chickenpox in your child 

The only way to prevent being infected with chickenpox is by vaccination. Produced with the weakened varicella-zoster virus, the chickenpox vaccine is usually administered to children between the ages of one and 12, as well as adults and teenagers who have yet to contract chickenpox. 

While the vaccine will prevent chickenpox in most children, a small number may still become infected. However, they will get a milder form of the infection, with less severe symptoms and much less skin lesions. 

Like all other vaccines, the chickenpox vaccine can have side effects – the most common being redness, pain and swelling at the injection site. Talk to your doctor to find out more about the vaccine.  

Chickenpox and pregnancy 

Because chickenpox can affect anyone at any age – from young children to teenagers, adults to the elderly – the risk of a pregnant woman coming into contact with someone with the varicella-zoster virus is very high. This is dangerous if you have never had chickenpox before.  

 

Danger to you 

Chickenpox in adulthood can be severe and may lead to serious complications such as pneumonia or encephalitis ( inflammation of the brain ), although these are rare. The scarring in adults tends to be worse. 

 

Danger to your baby 

A chickenpox infection during early pregnancy can cause birth defects, low birth rate, or limb abnormalities in the foetus. Developing the infection a week before your delivery, or within 10 days after delivery, may cause a life-threatening infection in your newborn baby.  

 

Reduce the risk of infection 

If you are pregnant and have never had chickenpox, talk to your doctor about the risks to you and your baby. 

Get your husband and children ( even if they are teenagers ) to get themselves vaccinated to reduce the risk of their contracting the disease and passing it on to you. 

The chickenpox vaccine for adults consists of two doses given within an interval of eight weeks. 

     
     

Importance of vaccination

About chickenpox

Chickenpox

 

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