As a Health Visitor and a mother, I know that the onset of Chickenpox can be quite an alarming experience, especially for first-time mothers.
This blog is intended to dispel any urban myths that you might have heard. The blog presents facts extracted from NHS Choices.
Above all things, my advice is very simple: don’t panic and prepare for a few frustrating days of tension, itching, stopping your child from scratching (constantly) and probably some crying: your child and you! But it will pass and will quickly become a distant and deeply buried memory.
What is Chickpox?
Chickenpox is a common illness that mainly affects children and causes an itchy, spotty rash.
Most children will catch chickenpox at some point. It can also occur in adults who didn't have it when they were a child.
Chickenpox is usually mild and clears up in a week or so, but it can be dangerous for some people, such as pregnant women, newborn babies and people with a weakened immune system.
The symptoms of chickenpox start one to three weeks after becoming infected.
How do you catch chickenpox?
Chickenpox is caused by a virus that spreads very easily to people who haven't had it before. If you have had it before, you'll usually be immune for life.
The infection is spread in the fluid found in chickenpox blisters and the droplets in the coughs or sneezes of someone with the infection.
You can catch chickenpox from:
Someone with chickenpox is infectious from one or two days before the rash appears until all the blisters have dried out and crusted over.
What are the Symptoms?
Chickenpox is contagious until all the blisters have scabbed over, which usually happens about five or six days after the rash appeared.
How do I treat chickenpox at home?
Chickenpox can usually be treated at home.
You or your child will probably feel pretty miserable and uncomfortable, but treatment can help relieve the symptoms.
The following can help:
You should also take steps to stop chickenpox spreading, such as staying away from school or work until the last blister has scabbed over.
When should I get medical advice?
Chickenpox is normally mild and gets better on its own. But some people can become more seriously ill and need to see a doctor.
It's a good idea to contact your GP or NHS 111 for advice if:
Also consider getting advice if you're originally from a country near the equator (the tropics) and you've been in close contact with someone who has chickenpox.
What are the possible complications?
Most people with chickenpox will make a full recovery. But occasionally serious complications can occur.
These are more common in adults, pregnant women, newborn babies and people with weakened immune systems.
Possible complications include:
Some people with chickenpox may develop shingles later in life. This is a painful, blistery rash caused by the chickenpox virus becoming reactivated.
•Can I get chickenpox more than once?
Yes, it is possible to get chickenpox more than once, but this is extremely rare. Most people who have had chickenpox won't get it again because they're immune to it for life. However, some people who have had chickenpox will develop a related condition called shingles later on. This is caused by the chickenpox virus being reactivated, usually several decades later.
How are chickenpox and shingles connected?
Chickenpox and shingles are both caused by the same virus: the varicella-zoster virus. In some people who have had chickenpox, the virus can become active again later in life and cause shingles. You can't catch shingles from someone else. However, you can catch chickenpox from someone with shingles if you haven't had chickenpox before.
What are the risks of chickenpox during pregnancy?
Chickenpox during pregnancy can cause complications, both for the pregnant woman and the unborn baby. However, the actual risk of any complications occurring is low.
It's rare to get chickenpox when you're pregnant. In the UK, it's estimated that just 3 in every 1,000 women (0.3%) catch chickenpox during pregnancy.
Most pregnant women who get chickenpox recover, with no harmful effects on the baby.
When to get medical advice
Seek advice from your GP or midwife immediately if you're pregnant and:
Complications for pregnant women
You have a higher risk of complications from chickenpox if you're pregnant and:
There is a small risk of complications in pregnant women with chickenpox. These are rare and include:
Complications that arise from catching chickenpox during pregnancy can be fatal. However, with antiviral therapy and improved intensive care, this is very rare.
Complications for the unborn baby
Complications that can affect the unborn baby vary, depending on how many weeks pregnant you are. If you catch chickenpox:
After 36 weeks of pregnancy: your baby may be infected and could be born with chickenpox.
Complications for the newborn baby
Your baby may develop severe chickenpox and will need treatment if you catch it:
For more information see the NHS Choices website at www.nhs.uk