“ Chickenpox and shingles are caused by a virus called the Herpes Zoster virus. It is also called the varicella-zoster virus (varicella is the medical name for chickenpox). Chickenpox is a mild disease that most children catch at some point. Its most common in the winter and spring and usually affects lots of children at the same time, around once every three years. This is called an epidemic. Chickenpox spreads in tiny droplets of saliva and nasal mucus coughed out by an infected person. The virus is already in these droplets before any rash appears, which is why it spreads so fast. Chickenpox is most common between the ages of two and eight. You are infectious from about two days before the rash appears until roughly five days after. It takes 10-21 days for the symptoms to show after youve come into contact with the virus. This is called the 'incubation period'. „
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After managing to avoid the chicken pox virus as a child i was unfortunate enough to catch chicken pox wholst pregnant with my first child.
When the first few blisters appeared on my arm i thought nothing of it and just put it down to me not noticing that the deep fat fryer must have spat at me wholst cooking tea.
You can imagine my shock when i woke up the next morning covered in little blisters, and i mean covered there was not one part of my body it had missed, they were in my mouth, under my eye lids and every where else you could possibly imagine.
I phoned my doctor and explained to him that i thought i had chicken pox and he told me to come in and see him streight away, he sounded very concerned which panicked me a little bit.
I went streight in to see my doctor and he confirmed it was chicken pox and then informed me that in his 23 years working as a doctor he had never seen a pregnant woman with chicken pox before so didnt know what to do with me.
He consulted all the other doctors at our surgery and drew a blank none of them new what they were supposed to do with me ,by which point i was starting to panic even more.
My doctor eventually decided to phone the hospital to speek to a midwife who asked him how far pregnant i was and when he explained i was 27 weeks she told him to calm down and stop being silly as there was no risk to the baby at this stage in the pregnancy.
I went to the chemist on my way home and brought some calomine lotion to stop the itching as it will scar if you scratch.
At home that evening and the next day i felt rotten, i had a temperature, a fever and a very sore throat but these symptoms passed after two days and them i didnt feel unwell in my self just looked funny covered in calomine lotion.
A friend of mine also gave me some oilatum which the doctor prescribes her to put in her bath to stop the itching from her exma and that worked a lot better than the calomine lotion.
After about 8 days the scabs started to drop off and i was very relieved to find that only 3 of the blisters had scared and even luckier for me they were on my bottom and whos going to see that anyway.
There is a good part to me having chicken pox daft as it seems my daughter seems to have developed an immunity to it as she is now almost 5 and never caught chicken pox despite all our friends children having had it and my younger daughter. I was wrong about this she has caught them from school on her 6th birthday,
The reason for this review at this time is that my 4-year-old son has just had chickenpox. It has been doing the rounds at his nursery so I'm not really surprised he caught it, as it is very contagious amongst youngsters. I thought it might be really useful for any other parents who haven't seen this before.
***What Is It?***
The Varicella-zoster virus is part of the herpes family, which is why the spots resemble cold sores a bit. Once it is in your system it usually causes immunity from catching it again but this is not the case in everyone, as I have had a severe bout once and two milder episodes which have coincided with my children getting it. Once the virus is in your system it can lay dormant for years and then if your immune system is low it can reappear as shingles. Someone who has shingles can give someone chickenpox but the shingles disease cannot be passed on in that form.
***How Is It Passed On?***
The Varicella virus is passed on in a few different ways, which is why it goes round schools like wildfire. Firstly, it can be passed on from skin to skin contact so children holding hands at nursery and primary school get it very easily. The next way to get it is through fluids so if you have this and sneeze near someone or kiss someone then there is a good chance of passing it on. I guess this is why the teenagers or young adults who didn't get it when they are little are more prone to catching it in secondary school. Thirdly, this virus can be airbourne - just like in the film Outbreak - thank goodness the results aren't as dangerous. In effect you could catch this from passing someone in the street, shop or at work.
***The Incubation Period and Symptoms***
The problem with this disease is that spots can take up to 3 weeks to appear although the virus is in an incubation stage and will not be passed on until 1 or 2 days before the spots appear. This infectious stage will then stay with the sufferer until the last spot has crusted over and dried out completely. During the incubation period you may develop symptoms such as headaches, sore tummy and you will often notice that a child will lose their appetite. A high temperature can also be present. When the spots appear they start of as small, red, pimples but soon develop into large blisters filled with fluid with a red base.
These usually appear on the face or body first and then spread all over within a matter of a few days. Don't be surprised to find them in the hair, mouth or on the genital areas too. You may wake up on morning to find your child has a few and think they are not too bad, only to change your mind in a couple of days when you can hardly see a bit of flesh without a blister on.
These spots are very itchy and it's important that you try not to scratch them as they can become infected and leave horrible scarring. It has been known for a single person to have over 500 spots on their body whereas someone that gets them for a second or third time usually has only 20-30 spots. It is very common to see various stages of spots all at the same time as more appear every day until the disease runs it's course.
Sufferers with eczema can suffer really badly and it is a good idea to seek medical advice if this is the case.
Most people with chickenpox recover within a couple of weeks from the spots appearing with no problems but there can be complications for a pregnant woman who catches chickenpox who can pass the disease onto her unborn child and this can cause defects. Tests can be done in advance to check to see if the Varicella virus is present in any woman trying to have a baby and this is worth checking out.
Young babies whose mothers have not had the disease are equally at risk as they can get a very severe case. Otherwise an infant is usually protected by the mother's immune system.
The blisters may get infected if they are burst and scratched. They can bleed and then need a treatment of antibiotics to clear up infection. This can cause scarring which stays throughout your life although does fade in time.
Encephalitis is a rare outcome of this disease but causes swelling of the brain caused by a viral infection. Meningitis is another condition that can cause this.
It is very important that Aspirin is not given to anyone with Chickenpox as this can cause a condition called Reye's syndrome, which can cause brain and liver damage. Paracetamol is best given to bring any raised temperatures down and to ease suffering.
Other problems include cerebellar ataxia, which is a muscular disorder, pneumonia or myocarditis, which affects the heart. Before panicking though, it's worth remembering that these are very rare and most people who get chickenpox recover without having any problems.
Antihistamines are great for helping take away the itch and things like Piriton are ideal for children to take. Calamine is good to put directly onto spots and comes in lotion and cream form. It's a good idea to keep your child's nails short to avoid them scratching too. The important thing is to keep the skin cool as this helps keep the itching at bay. Lukewarm baths are a good way of doing this especially in summer and there are oils available from pharmacies that can be put into the bath to help ease the itching. Be very careful when drying though and pat dry the skin so as not to burst the blisters.
For severe cases antiviral medication can be given if deemed appropriate by a doctor.
I first got chickenpox when I was just about to turn 5 and it happened in the summer holidays so the heat really made it itchy for me. I was covered with them although I was lucky enough not to get them in my hair or in my mouth. I remember my mum dabbing lots of calamine lotion on me and this did help a bit but it was still very difficult to refrain from scratching. I wasn't too ill before the spots came out although I did go off my food a bit and felt a little bit sick. They cleared up before I started my first year at school although my mum has a photo of me trying on my uniform with a very spotty face and my front teeth missing. Aren't mums great?
The second time I came into contact with this disease was when my daughter came downstairs when she was 5. It was a Saturday and she was due to go to a party later on that day. There had been no signs of it the night before but she had been off colour the week before. We weren't sure how she had come in contact with it, as up until then none of her friends had been off at school with it. Her body was covered with small red spots and I wasn't too sure what it was to start off with until I noticed one blister like spot and recognised it immediately. The worst ones were on her chest and back to start with but she soon had them everywhere. Seventeen days later, just when all the marks were starting to fade, her 2-year-old sister came out with them too. We had of course been expecting this. Luckily she wasn't nearly as badly affected and most of the spots were only on her tummy and back with just one or two on her arms and legs and none on her face. Try telling a 2-year-old not to scratch though and getting her to sit still while I dotted calamine on her was a nightmare.
The next day I found I had some spots on my stomach and didn't really think too much of it to start with as I had already had chickenpox and wasn't aware at that time that you could get them again. The day after though I noticed they were blistering and I got the calamine out for me. I only had about 20 spots in total and they were mostly on my back and tummy with only 1 or two on my neck.
The recent outbreak was a bit more expected as my there is an epidemic of them going around at the school where my son attends nursery. He had been very grouchy for a couple of weeks and had been lashing out when someone touched him. Although we were used to tantrums, he was not really guilty of doing this so we were very concerned about what was causing his bad behaviour. He hadn't complained about having a sore tummy or headaches although he had been off his food and again we were concerned as he isn't the best eater anyway. When the spots came out we were actually quite relieved that we had discovered what was wrong and his teacher was sad that he had caught chickenpox but glad that there was a reason for his recent behaviour. Unfortunately he was due to go on his nursery trip a couple of days after the spots first appeared and soon became clear that he wouldn't be able to go.
The spots started in his hair and on his neck and there was a rather nasty looking one behind his ear. They didn't seem to be bothering him too much though and this could have been to do with the fact that he is on medication for hay fever, as anti-histamines are well known to help take itching away. Within two days they had spread right over his body and they were looking quite nasty but he refused point blank to let me dab calamine lotion on them to ease the itch as he said it was too cold. After several devious attempts, and several screaming and pleading episodes from him, I gave up and headed to the pharmacy for some advice. I was given calamine cream to try and this worked quite well although it did mean that I had to touch the spots directly rather than with cotton wool so it was very important to make sure my hands were very clean as some of the blisters on his back had been burst, probably whilst he was sleeping in bed. He let me do this though, and along with the Piriton it did seem to help. The state of play is that most of his spots are crusting over now and starting to dry up. He has dealt with it very well although he did have a bit of a fever on the 3rd and 4th day and a Boots own make Calpol had to be given, as he was getting a little bit delirious in his sleep. Apart from that he has been an angel, although he has been very bored and it's best to try to encourage quieter activities such as jigsaws, colouring in or just cuddling up to watch a bit of Cbeebies. We have also kept him occupied with books, which he loves.
I wasn't expecting to get any spots this time but I was wrong as I have about a dozen in total on my back, and a couple of my arms, legs and neck. They are very itchy and I'm dying to scratch but I'm determined not to do so as it would set a bad example to my son. I got them a day after him, which confused me slightly as I would have thought that I would have got them a couple of weeks later. I then remembered that I had helped out at the nursery a couple of weeks before and the penny dropped.
It is now almost a week since the spots first appeared and hopefully no more new ones will appear now so that he can go back to nursery before the end of term this week.
I hope this has been helpful to anyone out there who is looking for information on how to cope with chickenpox and if you want to see photos of my son's spots, they are on the review on Ciao.
For once Dooyoo have the recommendation at the bottom right - I wouldn't recommend these to anyone.