What is chckenpox?
It is an infectious disease caused by a virus from the group of Herpes called Varicella - Zoster. It is characterized by fever and a papuvesicular exanthem (a rash on the skin).
It is one of the most easily transmitted diseases and therefore very contagious.
Although severe complications associated with chickenpox are not frequent in children with normal defenses (immunocompetents), the disease is more dangerous in children that are still being breastfed, in those pacients immunocompromised and in adults.
How is it transmitted?
The virus passes from one person to another through particles sprayed by cough or sneezes.
It can also be transmitted by contact with handkerchiefs or by direct contact with the vesicular lesions of the skin.
The probability of contagion among scholars and members of the family is higher than 90%.
When is it more contagious?
The possibility of transmission is higher during the two first days of the appearence of the rash (though the contagion can begin 2 days before the appearence of the vesicular lesions).
Chickenpox can be transmitted up to five days after the appearence of the exanthem or until all the injuries adopt the form of a scab. (Other authors talk about 6 or 7 days after the appearance of the rash).
Which is the incubation period?
The period between the first contact with the virus and the appearance of the symptoms varies from 9 to 21 days.
How to realize if your child has chickenpox
The most common signal is the rash with vesicular lesions or blisters in all the skin: scalp, genital organs and even some injuries in the mouth. The exanthem is a strong pruritus (itches a lot).
The symptoms can develop together with a high fever, nausea, vomits and shivering.
The vesicular lesions break down letting a clear liquid free (very contagious) and after 4 to 5 days the scabs are formed.
Which is the treatment?
There is no curative treatment. The treatment is a support one with fever reducers (do not use aspirins since they enhance the risk of Reye's Syndrome). Bathe to keep the skin clean, cut and clean the nails thoroughly to prevent infections caused by scratching, use menthol talcum powder or antipruritus lotions prescribed by the pediatrician. Acyclovir is an antiviral which has specific indications in the treatment of chickenpox.
Can there be complications?
The most frequent complication is the excessive infection of the injuries with bacteria; which requires a treatment with antibiotics. Even rarer is the appearence of pneumonia caused by chickenpox, which can be fatal in patients immunocompromised (with a decrease of their immunological defenses).
How can it be prevented?
What other precaution must be taken?
It is important to avoid contact with sensitive pregnant women (who have not had chickenpox) during the first three months of their pregnancy since there can exist malformations in the fetus.
Concerning your children's health the pediatrician is irreplaceable!!
Ask your pediatrician