One of the most common childhood illnesses is chickenpox. Brought on by the varicella virus, the chickenpox is highly contagious among those who have not had it and affects almost everyone who has not been vaccinated by adulthood. Since your child is in close contact with other children at school all day, they may become exposed to the virus.
How Can I Tell If My Child Has Chickenpox?
The virus is spread through direct contact with the rash or bodily fluids of a person who currently has the virus or an item that has come into contact with an infected object, including toys, books, and clothing. After contracting the virus, a person may not exhibit symptoms for up to 21 days and will be contagious for up to 10 days after symptoms begin. Chickenpox presents as a rash all over the body. Additional symptoms include:
- Loss of appetite
Once the rash appears, it will progress through three stages. It will initially appear over several days as pink and red bumps, which will rise as it continues to spread. As the virus continues, the bumps will fill with fluid and increase in diameter before bursting and leaking. After the blisters break, they will begin to dry up and scab over. While the scabs take a few days to heal, you’ll no longer be contagious.
Who is Affected by Chickenpox?
Chickenpox can affect anyone, regardless of age. You are most at risk for getting the virus if you have not had chickenpox or the vaccination and work or live with children. Once you have had the chickenpox, you are generally immune to it, although some adults who have had the chickenpox may experience shingles later in life. A vaccination for shingles is available for people over the age of 60.
Complications from Chickenpox
Complications are most frequent in very young children and adults, particularly pregnant women or individuals with weakened immune systems. Individuals with cancer, HIV or on immune-suppressing medications are more at risk for complications from the chickenpox, including:
- Bacterial infections
- Toxic shock syndrome
It is critical not to give children under the age of 18 aspirin during their bout with the chickenpox. The medication can lead to Reye’s syndrome to develop, which can be fatal. If you work in childcare or were not exposed to the virus as a child, it is recommended that you receive two doses of the varicella vaccination within 28 days of each other.
If you or your child begin to exhibit symptoms of the chickenpox, visit your local AFC Urgent Care Center for treatment.