My child has chicken pox, what can I do?

The dreaded pox is everywhere at the moment. We asked Dr Laura Bottwood to talk us through the symptoms we should be aware of, and what we can do to make the experience as pain free as possible.

What are the symptoms?

Chicken pox is a very common illness caused by the varicella-zoster virus. Most children will have it at some point and it spreads very quickly from one child to another. This can be through touch or by simply being in the same room as someone infected!

What is it?

Chicken pox is a very common illness caused by the varicella-zoster virus. Most children will have it at some point and it spreads very quickly from one child to another. This can be through touch or by simply being in the same room as someone infected!

What are the symptoms?

Red spots! Some children may have very few, and others can be entirely covered. The red spots will fill with fluid which eventually burst and then scab over. These scabs can take 1-2 weeks to then drop off. The spots can be very itchy and unpleasant. Other symptoms to note are fever (T38 and higher), loss of appetite, aches and feeling generally unwell. Although these are all important things to look out for – you must remember that for most children chicken pox is a very mild illness.

What do I do?

Children should avoid school or nursery until the last spot scabs over as this indicates they are no longer infectious. This is usually 5 days after the first spots appear.

Your local pharmacy can help you treat the symptoms of chicken pox. Antihistamines and lotions can be helpful for that unpleasant itch experienced. There are a variety of products available which include calamine lotion, aloe vera and cooling gels. Home remedies such as oatmeal bathes can also soothe skin and ease the itch.

Be careful with cold baths if your child has a fever – the cold water can quickly reduce their temperature and in some cases bring on seizures.

Paracetamol can also be helpful if your child has a fever or any aches and pains. You should not use ibuprofen as this can cause serious skin infections when a child has chicken pox. Encourage your child to pat not scratch, keep their nails short, and dress in loose clothing.

To stop scarring you predominantly need to stop the itch and then apply a good moisturiser once all the scabs have fallen off.

Due to its high infectivity, children with chicken pox should not be in close contact with those pregnant, young babies/infants and those whose immune systems are weaker (such as someone elderly or under going chemotherapy).

 When to seek help

If you are not sure if your child has chicken pox or you have concerns book an appointment with your GP. It is important to let the person who books your appointment know that your child may have chicken pox as they will seat you away from the other patients.

You must also seek advice if your childs spots appear very inflamed as this may indicate infection. As said previously – the majority of chicken pox cases are mild however if you notice any abnormal symptoms such as shortness of breathe and headaches you must see your GP.

If you are concerned your newborn baby may be showing signs of chicken pox you must seek an urgent review.

And if your GP is not open? Access 111 – they will be able to give you further advice and arrange for your child to be seen as needed.

TO REMEMBER

For the majority of children chicken pox lasts 1 week and can treated by seeking advice from your local pharmacist

Use paracetamol NOT ibuprofen

If you are not sure seek help – GP/111

Avoid those at risk

And what about you?

Chicken pox as an adult has a higher rate of complications. You must seek advice from your GP or 111 if you develop symptoms. And if you are pregnant and you have been in contact with someone with chickenpox please seek advice from your GP or midwife