What is chickenpox?

Chickenpox is a viral infection caused by the varicella-zoster-virus (VZV). It's very contagious and is more commonly seen in children, usually presenting as an itchy rash and blisters. While it's a mild illness, serious complications such as pneumonia, encephalitis and bacterial infections can occur in infants, adolescents and adults, especially those with a weakened immune system.

How is chickenpox spread?

You are more likely to catch chickenpox if you come into direct contact with an infected person’s respiratory secretions, such as when they cough or sneeze. In addition, you can also catch chickenpox by touching the fluid from an infected person’s chickenpox blister.

It's important to note that chickenpox is most contagious during the first two to five days of being sick, and a rash begins to show generally after one to two days. The individual can stay infectious until the blisters break into scabs, which usually happens around day five. Unfortunately, this means you could be unknowingly spreading the virus.

To minimise the risk of spreading chickenpox, it's recommended that you practice good hand hygiene, covering your mouth and nose when sneezing and coughing, and making sure you're vaccinated.

What are the symptoms of chickenpox?

Symptoms of chickenpox may include:

  • Small itchy red spots

  • Blistering skin rash

  • Fever

  • Headache

  • Fatigue

Treatment for chickenpox

Chickenpox is mild in most cases and symptoms usually resolve without any specific treatment. But to relieve symptoms, treatment options can include:

  • Increasing fluid intake

  • Calamine lotion or other creams to reduce itching

  • Bed rest

  • Avoiding scratching

  • Lukewarm baths

It is important to avoid giving aspirin to children as this can lead to a serious illness in known as Reye's syndrome. If you are unsure what to do, please consult with your GP or a medical professional from Sonder for further assistance.

How can chickenpox be prevented?

The best way to prevent chickenpox is to get vaccinated against it. Please consult with a healthcare professional in regards to what vaccine would be most beneficial and safe for you.

There are two different chickenpox vaccinations available:

  • ProQuad - Can be given to children for their routine chickenpox vaccinations at 12 to 15 months of age, with a following booster shot from four to six years of age.

  • A varicella-containing vaccine (MMRV - measles, mumps, rubella, varicella) which is recommended and funded for all children at 18 months of age. It is also recommended that adults get this vaccine if they have not already received it, especially those with young children or who work in childcare or healthcare settings.

Chickenpox and pregnancy

Chickenpox is particularly dangerous for pregnant women and their babies. Women who have chickenpox for the first time during pregnancy are more likely to develop serious illness and complications.

If you are looking to become pregnant and have never had chickenpox, ask your doctor if you can get vaccinated. For dosages and recommended timeframes for vaccinations, please consult your healthcare professional or Sonder's 24/7 medical professionals.

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Information sourced from: Better Health Channel and The Royal Children's Hospital Melbourne

Image credit: Vitolda Klein on Unsplash

All content is created and published for informational purposes only. It is not intended to be a substitute for professional advice. Always seek the guidance of a qualified health professional.

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