Chicken Pox infection: its Causes, Symptoms, possible Health Effects, Treatments, Medicines and Frequently Asked Questions (FAQ)
What is Chicken Pox?
Chicken Pox is a highly infectious viral disease that mainly affects children. Common symptoms include itching of skin with red blisters and mild fever. Since most children are now vaccinated, this disease (also known as ‘varicella’) is comparatively rare than in the past.
If someone gets chicken pox, they are contagious after just 1 or 2 days. But taking precautions and paying attention to hygiene can keep others from getting infected. Although the disease is unpleasant, it has very few serious consequences in healthy children. But it can be more serious in infants and adults, as well as people who carry poor immune systems.
Chicken Pox Infection and related things
Chicken pox is more likely to affect pre-school and school-aged children between the ages of 2 and 10. Older children or adults who are not vaccinated may also be infected if they did not have chicken pox in their younger days.
After being infected, it usually takes about two weeks for the symptoms to start. The first symptoms may already appear a week after the infection, but sometimes it can take up to three weeks. Chicken pox is diagnosed within two weeks in most children.
Chicken pox often shows more difficult conditions in adults than children. The disease can continue for a long time and make them feel sicker. There is also a high risk of complications in adults. There is a risk of this disease only once in a lifetime.
The following parts of this article will discuss the chicken pox infection and the necessary information related to it.
Causes of Chicken Pox
Chicken pox is caused by the Varicella-zoster Virus. It is one of the Herpes Virus. These viruses spread from one person to another through droplets or direct contact. Chicken pox usually spreads when an infectious person breathes, coughs, sneezes or speaks tiny droplets of saliva released into the air. When people breathe in that air chicken pox spreads. The fluid from inside the blisters is also contagious if they break open or are scratched off. Almost any contact with someone with chicken pox can lead to infection unless vaccinated or already has chicken pox on its own.
Symptoms of Chicken Pox
Patients having chicken pox generally feel sick at first. This causes muscle pain and headache and increases body temperature. Chicken pox develops in the aftermath of a common itching rash, usually spreading first to your face and body and then to your scalp, arms and legs. Sometimes it also affects the mucous membranes and genitals. Excessive itching is often the main problem, which makes it difficult to fall asleep. Adults with chicken pox may not have a rash or it cannot spread to their body like a child.
Fever lasts for 3 to 5 days, but is less than 39 °C (about 102 °Fahrenheit). The rash starts as a small red spot and bumps, which then turns into blisters. The blisters contain clear fluid which later becomes darker. After a few days they dry up. The scab is formed and soon falls off. It usually takes about 3 to 5 days for the blisters to heal. Since skin abscesses are at different stages of development at any time, their distribution in the body is sometimes described as “starry sky”. The total number of blisters varies widely from person to person.
Health Effects of Chicken Pox
The effects of chicken pox infection can be seen as follows:
- Opening the blisters with itching can cause bacterial infections and blemishes on the skin. If the scabs fall off on their own, the risk of scar staying is low. The amount of scars will also depend on the size of the blisters.
- The virus can cause pneumonia in adults with very serious cases of chicken pox. Very few viruses can attack the central nervous system, leading to meningitis or encephalitis. People with poor immune systems are at a higher risk of this happening, for example – for the patients of cancer, AIDS or another serious disease.
- After recovering from chicken pox, the Varicella-zoster viruses are inactive but remain in the body. The viruses may reactivate itself years later, causing ‘Shingles’. This condition causes skin rash which can be very painful. It is most common in older people and people with poor immune systems. Adults with shingles can infect others who are not free from the virus. Those people then get infected by chicken pox virus.
- If a woman has chicken pox within the first six weeks of pregnancy, the virus can cause serious abnormalities for the unborn baby. Chicken pox infection near the date of delivery can be life-threatening for the baby, whose immune system is yet to develop enough to fight the virus.
Remedies for Chicken Pox
- Usually only symptoms of chicken pox are treated. In case of more serious problems, or if there is a greater risk of complications, antiviral drugs can be used to fight the virus. Lotions, gels and powders are often applied to the skin to relieve itching and dry up the blisters. Most of them contain tannins, zinc, menthols or polidocanol. Sometimes oral medicines like ‘Antihistamine’ are also recommended to prevent itching. But there is no reliable scientific research on how effective these treatments are.
- Symptoms such as fever or joint pain can be relieved by dispersion using drugs containing acetaminophen (paracetamol). The painkiller ‘ibuprofen’ is not suitable for children with chicken pox. Children and adolescents can only take Acetylsalicylic Acid if it is prescribed by the doctor, and only as a last resort. This is because it can cause a rare but dangerous side effect called Reye’s syndrome in children and adolescents.
- It can be very difficult not to scratch the very itchy areas of the skin. But it is still important to avoid itching as the fluid in the blisters is contagious. Also, the blisters that are scratched open leaves scar. Trimming the nails of children can help to some extent, or apply cotton mittens on baby’s hands so that they find it more difficult to scratch themselves.
- Wearing loose-fitting clothes made with smooth fabric can help prevent further skin irritation.
- A short bath is usually better than a long bath as your skin then does not absorb much water. It is better to wipe your skin carefully and dry it after bathing.
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The above article contained some important information related to the Chicken pox infection. This information is provided only for knowledge purposes. Please consult a doctor if the condition gets serious. Thank You!
Also Read: Chickenpox infection in Assamese
1) How is the chicken pox virus transmitted?
A- Chicken pox spreads from person to person by direct droplets through air contact with respiratory secretion or fluid from the skin lesion of an infected person. Infection of the fetus can also occur when the mother is infected with chicken pox virus during pregnancy.
The person with chicken pox is most contagious for 1-2 days before and after the onset of rash. Chicken pox can be contagious until about 5 days after the onset of rash or until the blisters are crusted. The duration of the infection may be longer in the case of the person who has a weak immune system.
2) Who is at greater risk of developing chicken pox?
A. Those who have never had chicken pox can get infected if they are exposed to someone with chicken pox virus or shingles. Most healthy children and adults can be uncomfortable for a few days but frequent complications are seen to develop. However, immunocompromised children and adults (e.g., people with HIV, leukemia or other conditions affecting their immune system), infants exposed to chicken pox in the womb, and the elderly may have pneumonia as complications of chicken pox.
3) What are the symptoms of chicken pox?
A. Chicken pox can bear symptoms like this – itching, mild fever and other systemic symptoms. The rash can start as a smooth, red bump and then develop into a blister from day 3 to 4. The disease is often more severe in adolescents, adults and individuals with poor immune systems.
4) Does the virus of chicken pox be transmitted in the air?
A. Chicken pox spreads from person to person through air, such as a person with virus speaks or sneezes. Virus particles can also be produced in chicken pox blisters, and spread to someone who touches fluid from the abscess. The virus can also spread from someone with a shingle, as chicken pox is caused by the same virus.
5) Is there any vaccination for chicken pox infection?
A- Yes, there is. The Centers for Disease Control (CDC) advises children to take chicken pox vaccines at the age of 1 and booster shots between the ages of 4 and 6. For people 13 and older who have never had chicken pox or taken a chicken pox vaccine, CDC suggests two doses of the vaccine, at least 28 days apart.