Chicken Pox is very common and highly infectious, but usually a mild illness in children.
What is Chicken Pox?
Chickenpox is very common and highly infectious (but usually mild) illness in children. It is characterised by a red rash of itchy spots that develop into fluid-filled blisters.
What causes it?
Chickenpox is caused by a virus called Varicella.
What are the symptoms?
Classic symptoms are: rash, fever, nausea, aching muscles and headaches. The incubation period is 14-16 days, and there are often no symptoms other than the rash. Some children develop a fever in the first 2-3 days. The spots appear in crops, first as small bumps, and rapidly changing into little blisters. The blisters soon dry and crust, and scabs form over the top. The scabs fall off without scarring. Occasionally they can form in the mouth to produce ulcers. If the spots are scratched at an early stage they can sometimes leave small scars. The rash generally only lasts 8-10 days.
What can you do?
A liquid paracetamol or ibuprofen can relieve general irritation to a small degree, and calamine creams are useful to help relieve any itching from the spots. It's also a good idea to call your GP (rather than visit) so the infection can be noted on your child's medical records. It's also important to keep your child in quarantine until all the blisters have crusted over (usually 5-7 days after the first blister appears).
To minimise scarring many parents use scratch mittens on their baby's hands or cutting their nails short to stop them taking the heads of the blisters (which can cause scarring).
If you are pregnant, or your baby has a weakened immune system, or is less than four weeks old, do phone your GP as this is a vulnerable group that can have more serious complications if left untreated.
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