Chickenpox is a highly contagious viral disease that can occur at any stage of life but is most prevalent in children. The after-hours home doctor experts at House Call Doctor say the illness causes a rash of red, itchy spots that turn into fluid-filled blisters. In Australia, an immunisation against the disease is given at 18 months as part of the normal vaccination schedule. This can greatly reduce the chances of contracting the disease however some people can still catch the virus.
If diagnosed with the disease, children should avoid going to school and adults should avoid the workplace. As the disease is highly contagious, people should wait until the blisters have fully dried out before heading out to busy locations. It can be spread both through contact with another person who has chickenpox, as well as through droplets that are coughed or sneezed into the air.
Signs and symptoms
After first exposure to the infection, symptoms are likely to last 10 to 21 days. Some signs of the illness include:
- Itchy rash, usually on the back, chest or face
- Mild fever
The disease for most people is very mild, but in rare cases children can develop serious conditions as a result of chickenpox. Some milder complications that can occur include:
- Cellulitis (bacterial infection)
- Bleeding (from excessive scratching).
As chickenpox is a virus, it cannot be treated with antibiotics, so treatments are usually to relieve symptoms of the rash and fever. They include:
- Creams to ease the itch
- Bed rest
- Lots of water
- Wearing gloves to prevent scratching
- Baths with baking soda or oatmeal added to the water.
It is extremely rare to get chickenpox more than once, however people who have had chickenpox can develop a related illness called shingles.