What You Need To Know About Chickenpox

In 1995, the chickenpox vaccine was introduced which lead to a decline of chickenpox cases nationwide by over 80 percent.

The Chickenpox virus

Chickenpox is caused by the varicella-zoster virus which belongs to the herpesviruses, a family of common infections. A common trait of herpesviruses is that once they’ve infected a person, they hole up in the host’s peripheral nerve and live there for life.

With the varicella virus, usually they will remain dormant and not resurface after the outbreak. However, the virus maybe reactivated when the person’s immune system is weakened perhaps due to stress or sickness. In any case the reactivated varicella virus will manifest as shingles. This is more common in adults than in children.

Second chickenpox vaccine

Towards the end of June 2006, a new vaccine against chickenpox is already available. The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) recommended that children between the ages 4 and 6 receive a second dose of the vaccine.

The CDC reported that "Fifteen to 20 percent of children who have received one dose of the vaccine are not fully protected and may develop chickenpox after coming in contact with varicella-zoster virus. Additionally, one dose of the vaccine may not continue to provide protection into adulthood when chickenpox is more severe."

Clean skin prevents secondary infections

Contrary to popular belief, children with chickenpox should actually bathe or be washed. Dr. Jay Hoecker, pediatrician at Mayo Clinic in Rochester, Minn. Explains that washing is important because, "You have to get wet if you’re going to wash bacteria off the skin, and washing is important for avoiding a secondary bacterial infection.

However, you do not want to rub the skin. Soak or pour the soapy water over the skin, and then pour some clean water over it to rinse. Then pat the skin dry as opposed to taking a towel and ‘buffing.’ "

Oatmeal baths

Oatmeal is not just a nutritious breakfast staple. People with chickenpox may also use it for bathing. Oatmeal provides relief against itch, and is very soothing since they ease most skin irritation.

Of course this does not entail immersing your child in a tub full of Quaker Oats. Opt for colloidal oatmeal bath products such as those manufactured by Aveeno. You may also use calamine lotion to relieve itch. It is best applied using a cotton ball.

With regards to recommendations to use antihistamines, Dr. Hoecker says that they "misdirected." Antihistamines can only bring relief if the source of the itch is an excess of histamines. But this is not the case with chickenpox.

Taking antiviral medications may lessen the gravity of the episode, but the treatment should be started within the first few days of infection. The problem however is that chickenpox is hard to diagnose at its early stage because its symptoms closely resemble a common cold.

Chickenpox complications

Chickenpox complications are rare. However, if you think a couple of week of itchiness is tough, think of how awful an irritated rash can be. Chickenpox is often manifests mildly healthy children. But it may be severe in children with eczema or people who are in immune-suppressing drugs or with weak immune system.

The elderly should avoid kids with chickenpox

Unless they are vaccinated, elderly people should avoid being exposed to the chickenpox virus. Dr. Hoecker says "Most of the vaccine has been given to children, although it can be given to older people.

Older individuals, especially those with health problems, should avoid being around the disease. They may not even know whether they had it as a child, especially if they had an attenuated [mild] case, so the natural immunities may not be in place."

Source: MSN Health