Most children will develop chicken pox under the age of ten in Ireland and while there is no cure for the itchy illness, the virus usually clears up after running its natural course.
As parents, knowing what to do when your child gets chicken pox can be overwhelming, particularly when they are in the very uncomfortable stages of the virus.
It’s important to remember that kids and adults (who have not had chickenpox before) can develop it at any age, so knowing the early symptoms is key.
According to the HSE: “Chickenpox is a common, infectious disease. It is caused by a virus called varicella zoster.
“Try and avoid coming into contact with other people if you or your child have chickenpox. Especially avoid coming into contact with pregnant women and babies.”
Here’s what you need to know:
Chickenpox starts with red spots and they can appear anywhere on the body.
If they are in fact chickenpox, they will become extremely itchy after about 12 to 14 hours.
The spots may also be filled with fluid in the form of blisters which may burst – they may also spread or stay in a small area.
The spots will eventually scab over, but remember; more blisters might appear while others scab over. This happens after a day or 2.
After 1 to 2 weeks, the scab will fall off naturally but new spots can keep appearing in waves for 3 to 5 days after the rash begins. Different groups of spots may be at different stages of blistering or drying out.
Chickenpox is very itchy and can make children feel miserable, even if they do not have many spots. Chickenpox is usually much worse in adults.
Other lesser-known symptoms of chickenpox
You might get symptoms before or after the spots, including:
- a high temperature above 38 degrees Celsius
- aches and pains, and generally feeling unwell
- loss of appetite
You or your child do not usually need any medical tests to diagnose chickenpox. A blood test can show if you have had it before and are immune.
When to get medical help
Contact your GP immediately if you think your child has chickenpox and they:
- are under 1 month old
- have heart or lung disease
- are on chemotherapy, immunosuppressants or steroids
- have a disease that affects their immune system – like HIV or a bone marrow disease
Ask for an urgent GP appointment if your child has chickenpox and they have:
- redness, pain and heat in the skin around a blister or spot
- breathing problems
- symptoms of dehydration
- certain skin conditions like eczema
- headaches that don’t go away after giving paracetamol, or are getting worse
Always phone your GP surgery if you think your child has chickenpox before bringing your child in to see them. This is so they can take precautions to prevent the virus from spreading to other people in the surgery.
Call 999 or 112 if your child has chickenpox and they have a fit or seizure.
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