Childhood is almost incomplete and uneventful without one bout of Chicken pox. It is a common illness for kids under the age of 12. Thanks to the varicella vaccine which is administered to toddlers between 12 and 15 months followed by a booster between the ages of 4 to 6, this illness is not so rampant anymore. Vaccinated kids get significant protection – even in the case of an outbreak, have milder symptoms and quicker recoveries compared to those who didn’t get immunised. The vaccine is 99.9 percent effective.
Kids above 13 and older who have never had a bout of chickenpox or gotten vaccinated should ideally receive two shots of the vaccine with a 4-week gap for protection. Those healthy kids who have had a bout of chickenpox won’t need the vaccine separately as they now have lifelong protection against illness.
This contagious disease is caused by the varicella-zoster virus. The initial symptoms are itchy rashes and spots all over the body including the mouth, scalp, limbs and genital areas accompanied by flu-like symptoms. The stages of chicken pox from red rashes to blisters to scabs can be severe and extensive for those kids with weaker immune systems and with skin disorders like eczema. Sometimes serious bacterial infections of the skin, lungs, bones, joints and the brain can occur.
An infected child must stay at home to recover until the rashes go away. Cool baths or topical application of calamine lotion are the only ways to seek relief and manage the itching sensation.
Chickenpox is contagious. To prevent it from spreading, washing hands often with antiseptic soap especially before eating and after using the bathroom should be made a habit for kids. There are no antibiotics prescribed for chickenpox except if the sores get infected with bacteria especially with kids who end up scratching and picking at the blisters. Anti-viral medication may be prescribed to those with complications depending on age, health, extent of infection and stage of treatment.