Chickenpox is a common childhood illness that is caused by a virus called varicella. Chickenpox causes an itchy rash and usually also causes fever. Chickenpox may also cause headache, tiredness, loss of appetite, vomiting, diarrhea, runny nose, or cough.
The rash of chickenpox usually starts on the stomach or back and can spread anywhere on the skin. The rash starts as small red bumps that become fluid-filled blisters. Eventually the blisters break open and become crusted over.
Chickenpox is very contagious and is spread from person to person. It is contagious until all of the blisters have crusted over (about 5 to 7 days.) If your child is exposed to chickenpox, you will know if he has gotten chickenpox in about 2 weeks. Most people only get chickenpox once because they develop immunity to the varicella virus.
While your child has chickenpox, you can do the following to make him or her more comfortable:
- Use acetaminophen for fever. DO NOT USE ASPIRIN!
- A cool bath with baking soda or oatmeal (Aveeno or Actibath) will be very soothing. Calamine lotion (not Caladryl) can also be applied to the rash to help with itching.
- Benadryl liquid taken by mouth may help with itching, but remember that this medicine might also make your child more sleepy.
- Try to keep your child from scratching the rash. Scratching can cause the rash to become infected and can cause scarring. You may need to put socks on your child's hands to help prevent scratching.
- Rash in the mouth can be very painful. Offer cool liquids and soft foods; avoid very salty foods and citrus fruits.
- If you think that your child has been exposed to chickenpox or develops a rash that may be chickenpox, please call our office to discuss this before bringing in your child.
Because chickenpox is so contagious, we try not to expose other children in the office.
Call our office immediately if your child has chickenpox and develops trouble walking, becomes confused or difficult to awaken, complains of a sore neck or a severe headache, or has vomiting more than three times. Also give us a call during call hour (8:30 - 9:15 A.M.) if your child has fever for more than one week, your child is younger than 3 months old, or if the rash looks infected (swollen, hot, hard, or draining yellow fluid.)