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Chickenpox in children

While dressing up Rehan for his school, his mother noticed several red bumps on his back. They did not seem to be bothering the six year old so she mistook them for mosquito bites. At lunch time, Shazia received a call from school to take Rehan home as he had fever. Later that day she noticed several more spots scattered all over the body.sni

sni“It suddenly struck me that my boy may be suffering from chickenpox. But how should I confirm this and soothe him as he is crying due to the itching,” says Shazia.sni

Chickenpox, a viral illness caused by a virus varicella is a contagious disease. It is difficult to diagnose it initially. The disease starts off with a few red spots along with fever. Dr Shaheen Ansari, a pediatrician from Lahore adds that, day by day the spots increase and turn into blisters till day five. After that most of the blisters become crusts. Actually it is a cycle from bumps to blisters to crusts.The virus enters the body through the nose or mouth and mostly develops two to three weeks after contact with an infected person.sni

The illness mainly spreads through the air and its virus can survive for several hours in the air. It cannot live on objects like sheets, toys etcetera. A number of conditions like insect bites, skin problems and viral illnesses resemble chickenpox.sni

sni“It starts with mild flu, fever, headache, nausea, aches and pains and loss of appetite. And the rash appears after couple of days,” explains Dr Shaheen.sni

A pregnant woman with chickenpox can pass it on to her baby before birth. A baby can even contract it from his mother soon after birth.

sni“Babies who get chickenpox from their mothers before birth could be born with birth defects like skin scars, eye problems, brain damage etcetera,” says Dr Haroon Rasheed, a pediatrician from DG Khan.sni

Is it contagious?sni

It is highly contagious so it demands special care to prevent the spread. It can be passed through the saliva, cough secretions and direct touch. Therefore, isolate the patient till the blisters become crusted or dried up. Though it may be tough to isolate a child but all the efforts should be done in this regard.sni

According to Dr Shaheen, in case of newborn or infant, breastfeeding plays a vital role as it provides immunity. Trim their fingernails to avoid scratching. Antihistamines are also recommended for soothing. The goal is to ease the itching. Cool washed cloth may help in soothing.sni

sni“A viral infection does not respond to antibiotics. So avoid giving them.”sni

Chickenpox is self-limiting so you need to be patient. Give your baby plenty of fluids to prevent dehydration. Dress your child in loose, cotton clothing to keep skin cool and reduce itching. According to American Academy of Pediatrics (APP), the best way to protect your baby from chickenpox during the first year of life is to keep him away from children with active disease. Once he reaches 12 to 15 months, he can have the first dose of chickenpox vaccine and the second dose is recommended between four and six years. In most cases, a child can only get it once. This is called lifelong immunity. But in rare cases, a person might get it again.sni

When to see the doctor?sni

Dr Haroon says that you must consult the doctor if an infant catches chickenpox as the baby may have a weak immune system or an immune disorder. It is a concerning matter if a child’s fever prolongs more than five days, develops moderate to severe cough, has red painful eyes, severe headache when fever is controlled and significant dizziness, along with headache, vomiting and stiff and painful back of the neck or spine. Moreover, the bumps can get infected with pus draining out. If a pregnant mother is exposed to it she should immediately consult her doctor. Otherwise, chickenpox rarely warrants contacting the doctor.sni

Chickenpox is a common and preventable childhood illness. If it occurs once, it completes its cycle. The whole time frame is not only painful for a child but also great trial for parents as well. So patience is the virtue.sni

chickenpox, chickenpox in babies and children, how to care for a child with chickenpox, children health

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