Chicken pox used to be a fact of life for almost every child. In fact, it was a common virus that typically infected children under the age of fifteen. Those who did not contract it as a child still had the possibility of having chicken pox as an adult. With today's vaccine, however, the outbreaks of this disease aren't as fierce as they once were.
What Is Chicken Pox?
Chicken pox is caused by a virus known as varicella zoster. You may not realize that your child has contracted the virus in its early stages. In fact, many cases of chicken pox begin like colds, with runny noses and a cough. After a few days of this, however, don't be surprised if you discover a few red bumps on your baby's body. Within twenty-four hours, those bumps may multiply.
Chicken pox is highly contagious. When my older children were small, my oldest daughter contracted the virus at school. While she had a moderate case of it, her younger sister was absolutely covered and miserable. My son, who was about a year old at the time, only had a minor case. Still, that must have been enough to grant him immunity because he's never contracted them again. How severe your child's case might be really is the luck of the draw! However, if she doesn't catch them until she reaches her teen years, she may have a much more severe case.
What Are the Symptoms?
Chicken pox begin as small pink or red dots that quickly form a blister. They are quite itchy, and after a day or so they will crust over. It may take as many as seven days for all of the blisters to show up. They often begin forming on the chest and the face before spreading to other areas of the body.
A child who is infected will probably not feel well for several days. She may run a fever and may continue to suffer from a runny nose or cough. You don't want your child to scratch her blisters, which could leave scars or cause infection, but try telling that to a baby or toddler! Chicken pox are irritating, so you'll need to do what you can to keep your little one comfortable.
- Because it may be difficult to stop your child from scratching, trim her fingernails to lessen the damage.
- Keep her skin cool. Sweat can irritate the bumps even more.
- Let her soak in a lukewarm bath. You can add oatmeal, even making a paste out of it to place on the more severe areas.
- Calamine lotion will help to ease her suffering somewhat, although you'll have to reapply it often.
- Check with your doctor before giving your child any over-the-counter medications.
Facts on the Vaccine
With the introduction of the chicken pox vaccine, cases have declined drastically.
- Children may receive the vaccination between twelve and eighteen months, and only one dose is necessary.
- Children who receive the vaccine between eighteen months and thirteen years should still only receive one dose.
- Many states have added the additional requirement of showing evidence that a child has had the vaccine or the virus before registering for school.
- The vaccine has been proven effective in at least eight out of ten vaccinations.
- If your child has had the vaccine but still contracts the virus, her case should be mild.
- There are certain people who should not receive the chicken pox vaccine, so check with your doctor.
- Although any vaccine carries the risk of possible side effects, it is rare for these to be dangerous or severe.
As always, talk with your doctor about any questions or concerns you might have about the chicken pox virus or vaccine.