WHAT IT MEANS WHEN YOUR DOC­TOR SAYS... Your child has chick­en­pox

The Jewish Chronicle - - Life/food -

With the milder spring weather comes the start of chick­en­pox sea­son. Chil­dren are the main suf­fer­ers but there is not re­ally any rea­son to con­sult a doc­tor as most cases are pretty mild. The rash is easy to iden­tify— the spots ap­pear in clus­ters called crops — and you get new crops each day over sev­eral days. The spots start red, then blis­ter with fluid be­fore go­ing crusty and scab­bing over. They are nor­mally re­ally itchy.

In oth­er­wise healthy young­sters, chick­en­pox is not nor­mally dan­ger­ous: there are some pos­si­ble com­pli­ca­tions, such as scar­ring of the skin and sec­ondary in­fec­tions of the skin or ears, for which an­tibi­otics are needed. More prob­lem­atic com­pli­ca­tions in­clude pneu­mo­nia and kid­ney prob­lems, but these are rare.

Chick­en­pox nor­mally de­vel­ops within two to three weeks of con­tact. Peo­ple are con­ta­gious from a day or two be­fore the rash starts un­til the rash has crusted over com­pletely — usu­ally a week af­ter the first spot de­vel­ops. It is highly in­fec­tious and is spread in the air, so you can catch it just by be­ing in the same room as some­one who has it.

Min­imis­ing the itch with calamine lo­tion or anti-itch med­i­ca­tion (an­ti­his­tamines) is the first thing to do. Scratch­ing causes scar­ring, so this is re­ally im­por­tant. Tak­ing a bath run through por­ridge oats — put them in a sock or a muslin bag so the water goes milky — also pro­vides ef­fec­tive re­lief. Most chil­dren have a low-grade fever with chick­en­pox but you can con­trol their tem­per­a­ture with parac­eta­mol or ibupro­fen as nor­mal and give them plenty of flu­ids.

I’m al­ways asked if peo­ple should make their chil­dren get chick­en­pox on pur­pose. Most of us will have chick­en­pox at some stage, so it makes sense to get it over with, although it does seems strange will­ingly to let your child de­velop an ill­ness. For girls, it is bet­ter to have it as a child as then there is no chance of get­ting it while preg­nant.

And fi­nally the chick­en­pox/shin­gles ques­tion ev­ery­one asks, and no, shin­gles is not adult chick­en­pox. Chick­en­pox in adults is the same ill­ness as it is in chil­dren, with the same spots, although the symp­toms are nor­mally worse. Shin­gles is a re­ac­ti­va­tion of your old chick­en­pox many years later, of­ten af­ter the age of 50. The virus lies dor­mant in a nerve, then starts to mul­ti­ply again when you are run down. If your child has chick­en­pox, no one can catch shin­gles from her.

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