Chickenpox – What You Need To Know

Let us answer all your questions about Chickenpox!

So, what is Chickenpox exactly?

Chickenpox, also known as Varicella Zoster, is a common and very contagious infection, which mostly affects children under the age of 10 and some adults. Chickenpox is so common in childhood that over 90% of adults are immune to the condition because they’ve had it before. Children usually catch chickenpox in winter and spring, particularly between the months of March and May.

What are the symptoms of Chickenpox?

Chickenpox often starts with red itchy spots (Picture 1). Some children may only have a few spots, but other children can have spots that cover their entire body. These are most likely to appear on the face, ears and scalp, under the arms, on the chest and stomach, and on the arms and legs.

The spots then fill with fluid and become blisters (Picture 2). The blisters often burst and scab, which eventually fall off.

You may notice other symptoms before or after the spots appear, including:

• A high temperature
• Aches and pains, and generally feeling unwell
• Loss of appetite

I think my child has Chickenpox, should I be worried?

In most childhood cases, chickenpox isn’t serious and normally gets better on its own. Due to its contagious nature, you should keep your child at home until ALL the blisters have scabbed over (some may crust as others appear). This is when your child is least contagious and less likely to spread the virus. Chickenpox is infectious from 2 days before the spots appear, until they have all crusted over – usually 5 days after they first appeared.

It is important to protect people who are at a high risk of serious of complications from chickenpox. These groups of people include newborns, pregnant women and those who have a weak immune system (for example those who may be receiving cancer treatment or are on steroid treatment).

What can I do to help treat my child’s Chickenpox?

Chickenpox is considered a minor illness in children. There is no specific treatment for chickenpox, but here at Davidsons Chemists there is a range of over the counter remedies to help manage the illness.

The following treatment options are available, if appropriate after a consultation with one of our Davidsons Chemist Pharmacists, via the NHS Pharmacy First Scotland service:

  • Paracetamol to help with pain, discomfort and fever
  • Antihistamines to reduce itching
  • Cooling lotions such as calamine.

There are some Dos and Don’ts that are important to follow:

Do Don’t
Drink plenty of fluids Do not scratch itchy spots – this can cause further spots and scarring
Bathe in cool water Do not take ibuprofen as this may cause serious skin conditions
Dress in loose clothing Do not give aspirin to your child under 16
Wear socks or mittens on hands to stop scratching Do not be around pregnant women, newborns, and those with a weakened immune system

When should I take my child to the Doctor?

For most children, chickenpox is mild and usually gets better on its own. However, some children can become seriously ill with chickenpox and need to see a doctor.

Contact your GP straight away if your child develops any abnormal symptoms, such as:

  • If the blisters on their skin become infected (for example, if the area around them is red or swollen or if there is pus or fluid oozing out)
  • If your child has a pain in their chest or has difficulty breathing

It is important to tell the receptionist you think it’s chickenpox before going to the surgery. They may recommend a special appointment time if other patients are at risk.

I am an adult and think I have chickenpox, what should I do?

Chickenpox may be a childhood illness, but adults can get it too. Chickenpox tends to be more severe in adults, and adults have a higher risk of developing complications.

Adults with chickenpox should stay off work until all the spots have crusted over. They should seek medical advice if they develop any abnormal symptoms, such as infected blisters. Adults may benefit from taking antiviral medicine if treatment is started early in the course of the illness (these are only available from your Doctor).

Treatment is available from Davidsons Chemist for adults with chickenpox. Pop into one of our branches and ask our Pharmacists for more advice.

I am pregnant and think I have Chickenpox, what should I do?

It’s rare to get chickenpox when you’re pregnant, and the chance of it causing complications is low. If you do get chickenpox when you’re pregnant, there’s a small risk of your baby being very ill when it’s born.

Speak to a GP if you have not had chickenpox and have been near someone with it.

Is there a vaccine against Chickenpox?

There is a chickenpox vaccine, but it is not part of the routine childhood vaccination schedule. The vaccine is only offered to children and adults who are particularly vulnerable to chickenpox complications.

The recommended two doses, six weeks apart, is estimated to offer 98% protection from chickenpox in children and 75% protection in adolescents and adults.

Anything else I should know?

There is a rumour around that you can catch shingles from someone who has chickenpox. Please be reassured that this is false, however, you can catch chickenpox from someone with shingles if you have not had chickenpox before.

Here at Davidsons Chemist, we have everything you need to help you and your child with chickenpox. If you are concerned you or your child has chickenpox, please phone one of our branches and speak to our highly trained staff for advice. Alternatively, you can pop into one of our branches for a face-to-face consultation with a Pharmacist.

Published by Callum Watson – Strathblane Pharmacist Manager