Chicken pox is a highly transmissible condition that was once prevalent among children. With the availability of the vaccine, the cases have drastically dropped. Chicken pox is caused by the varicella zoster virus and typically develops in late winter or early spring. Children who have not received the vaccine develop symptoms within 10-21 days after exposure to an infected individual.
How does chicken pox develop?
Chicken pox spreads via direct exposure to an infected individual and airborne by the spread of the respiratory secretions. Since those who are infected are considered contagious for 1-2 days before the distinct rash develops, the child might have been exposed to someone with the condition without knowing. An individual can also acquire the condition after directly exposed to a person with shingles or herpes zoster which is reactivation of chicken pox.
Development of the symptoms
The symptoms usually start with low grade fever, appetite loss and diminished level of activity. After 2 days, the child will develop an itchy rash characterized by small-sized reddened bumps that start on the scalp, face and trunk and later on spread to the arms and legs.
These bumps later on become blisters with clear fluid and the turn cloudy. After this, they become open sores and eventually crust over within 24 hours but the child will continue to develop fresh bumps for up to 4 days more.
All the lesions must crust over after about 6 days in which the child is no longer contagious. It might take 1-2 weeks before all the scabs fully heal. Once the child develops the condition, he/she should have lifelong immunity.
Remember that there is no effective treatment for children who develop a minor case, but if the child received a vaccine within 72 hours or even up to 5 days after exposure, it can help prevent the infection from developing.
The management of chicken pox is focused on providing comfort to the child and usually includes increased intake of fluids, pain medications, application of calamine lotion, oatmeal baths and oral medications to alleviate the intense itchiness. Additionally, it is vital to keep the fingernails of children short and allow him/her to wear loose-fitting clothes.
Acyclovir is an antiviral medication that is used to reduce the symptoms. This medication is considered for children at risk for develop a severe case such as those with pulmonary conditions, under steroid medications or with immune system issues.
When to consult a doctor
A doctor should be consulted if the child develops chicken pox and the blisters turn extremely red and tender, drain pus or if there is high fever that lasted more than a few days. If the child is inconsolable, develops tender or swollen glands or unable to drink or dehydration is suspected, a doctor should be consulted as well.