Chicken Pox: Causes, Symptoms, Complications, Treatment And Prevention Tips

Updated at: Jan 15, 2021
Chicken Pox: Causes, Symptoms, Complications, Treatment And Prevention Tips

 Chicken pox is an illness that is caused by the chicken pox virus. Read this articles to know about the causes, symptoms, treatment and prevention.

Navya Kharbanda
Other DiseasesWritten by: Navya KharbandaPublished at: Jan 15, 2021

Chickenpox is a contagious infection that is caused by the varicella-zoster virus. Both adults and children can get affected, but it is most common in kids. The main symptom of chickenpox is itchy rashes on your skin that look like red blisters. After a few days, the blisters pop open and starts leaking. Then, the healing process starts after scabbing. This process takes a long time and this illness stays for more than two weeks. Chickenpox is also known as varicella and can be quite uncomfortable to handle as the signs are annoying. People who haven't had the disease are at a higher risk of getting affected by chicken pox. Children under 2 years of age are also likely to get this viral infection. In fact, 90% of all cases occur in young children only. Onlymyhealth editorial team talked to Dr.  A.K Gulati, Head of the Department, Paediatrics, Max Smart Super Speciality Hospital, Saket, about the causes, symptoms, complications, treatment and prevention tips for chicken pox.

Chickenpox symptoms

Chickenpox is a highly contagious infection that is characterized by the the spreading blisters or rash all over your body that are very itchy. It may even develop on your face. This outbreak spreads quickly on the whole body. The signs of chickenpox start appearing within the time span of 10 to 21 days, after you come in contact with someone who already has the virus. Usually, people recover in a matter of 2 weeks. Well, chickenpox is mostly a very mild viral infection in children. However, it can cause blisters in your nose mouth and even genitals in rare and severe cases. New bumps after getting affected continue to develop for several days. One can spread the virus to other people up to 48 hours before the rash appears on your body. The virus stays contagious until the blisters start getting crusted. So, an extremely itchy rash is the most common symptom of chickenpox. As per Dr. A.K Gulati, the non-rash symptoms are:

  • Fever
  • Headache
  • Loss of appetite
  • Tiredness
chickenpox

After experiencing the above listed symptoms for a few days, the rash starts developing on your skin. This rash also has various stages, like:

  • The rash spreads from a few spots to many, all over your body. The severity varies in every person
  • Then, the spots develop in groups and mostly appear on the face, chest, and stomach. At this stage, they are small, red and very itchy
  • Blisters start developing right on top of the spots. These can also be very itchy
  • After that, within 2-3 days, the blisters get dried, covered as they start crusting. 
  • Within 10-12 days, the crust also starts falling off on its own and heals in a few days

Chickenpox causes

Chickenpox is caused by a virus so you can get it even by simply breathing in the harmful particles that get released from chickenpox blisters in the air, or by touching something that is infected. It can very easily spread through direct skin contact with the rash. Moreover, it can also spread when a person who already has chickenpox coughs or sneezes around am unaffected person. Varicella-zoster virus (VZV) causes chickenpox. In most of the cases, it spreads through direct or indirect contact with an infected person. The virus is mostly contagious for those who stay around an infected person before their blisters develop. After crusting, it does not remain that contagious. The virus can spread through various factors such as saliva, coughing, sneezing and contact with fluid leaking from the blisters.

Chickenpox complications in children and adults

sneezing

In chickenpox, it can get severe and result in several health problems in both children and adults. Chickenpox complications in children include bacterial infections of the skin, soft tissues, bones, joints, sepsis and even death. It may also lead to dehydration, pneumonia and encephalitis. Moreover, complications can also happen if any child takes an aspirin for chickenpox. And, adults have a greater risk of developing health complications from chickenpox as compared to children as those with weak immune systems or have HIV are also at a high risk.

Chickenpox treatment

It is important to talk to your doctor immediately after developing chickenpox symptoms, along with cold and fever. The doctor needs to know if you are pregnant or there is any other underlying medical condition. If you mention about all the details, only then your doctor will be able to diagnose this disease, after conducting a physical exam of the rashes or blisters on you or on your child's body. And, the lab tests can give a confirmation about the cause of your blisters. Usually, people that get diagnosed with chickenpox are suggested to wait for the virus to get released from their body. According to Dr. Gulati, there is no actual cure for chickenpox. Your doctor may even prescribe some medicines or creams to reduce symptoms like itching. Itching relief can also be done by:

  • Lukewarm water baths
  • Applying lotion
  • Wearing soft clothes
  • Use oatmeal bath products

Sometimes, even antiviral drugs are given to treat chickenpox in adults. Talking about chickenpox in children, parents are also advised to stop their children from going to school or anywhere else. This helps in preventing the spread of chickenpox virus. You can reduce the symptoms of chickenpox virus, like itching, by:

  • Not rubbing the rashes or blisters
  • Applying calamine lotion on itchy rashes, but avoid using it on the face
  • Take the doctor's prescription to apply any cream on blisters in the genital area
cream

To prevent scratching:

  • You can put mittens or gloves on your child's hands to avoid scratching as it can leave scars on the body
  • Keep your kid's fingernails trimmed and clean to avoid worsening of scratches or infection 
  • Try having cold and soft foods for blisters in the mouth as a chickenpox patient might be finding it difficult to eat or drink

Chickenpox prevention tips

According to Dr. Gulati, the best way to prevent the spread of chickenpox is to get your child vaccinated. For this virus, the varicella vaccine is given to the kids. Children who have never had chickenpox get two doses of the vaccine, mainly first one at the age of 12-15 months and the second one between 4-6 years of age.  And, people over age 13, who have never been vaccinated get two doses of the vaccine within a gap of 28 days. The chickenpox vaccine is a safe and very effective way to prevent chickenpox and other related complications to it. The chickenpox vaccine is the only way to prevent this illness. When the vaccine does not provide full protection, it surely reduces the severity of chickenpox symptoms. 

Also read: Chickenpox Home Remedies: Here's How To Use Neem to Treat Chickenpox

So, these were the causes, symptoms, treatment and prevention of chicken pox by Dr. A.K Gulati, head of Pediatrics. You should talk to your doctor if you are not sure about your  vaccinations. Moreover, if you are planning to become pregnant, then also it is important to visit your doctor to check if your vaccinations are updated, before conceiving a baby. Many parents are confused if the chickenpox vaccines their child is getting, are safe or not. But, since the time the chickenpox vaccine became available, many studies have concluded that it is safe and effective.

Read more articles on Other diseases

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