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  • Shaken Baby Syndrome

    Tuesday, 21 July 2015 16:28
  • Amniotic fluid problems

    Thursday, 14 May 2015 12:54
  • Choosing a pre-school

    Friday, 10 April 2015 17:50
  • Newborn reflexes

    Tuesday, 03 March 2015 15:49
  • Mastitis

    Tuesday, 03 March 2015 15:41
  • Pelvic floor exercises

    Wednesday, 11 February 2015 17:20
  • Colic

    Wednesday, 11 February 2015 17:11
  • Antenatal Classes

    Monday, 03 June 2013 09:34
  • Strap-in-the-Future

    Thursday, 30 June 2011 13:52

Chicken Pox



Chicken pox is one of the most common childhood diseases that is caused by the varicella-zoster virus. The term ‘chicken pox’ is derived from the Old English word ‘gican’ meaning ‘to itch’ or from the old French word for chickpea – ‘chichi-pois’ – which describes the size of the lesion. It mostly occurs in children between the ages of 5-9, but people of all ages can contract the disease. Chicken pox is usually more severe in adults, very young children and people who are immune suppressed, rather than in healthy children. It occurs more frequently in the months of winter and spring. Chicken pox has an incubation period between 9-21 days. Generally, when the sores have crusted over, your child is no longer considered to be contagious, this may occur 5-7 days after the rash appears (, 2010; AboutKidsHealth, 2010;, 1996-2010).


How is chicken pox spread?

Chicken pox is highly contagious and is easily spread to family members and school classmates, through air-borne particles, either in the form of inhaled respiratory droplets or from the fluid of blisters and sores. It can also be transmitted indirectly by contact with articles of clothing or other items that have been exposed to fresh drainage from sores (, 2010).



·                Usually young children develop chicken pox without warning. However, some children may feel generally unwell and develop a mild fever or headache a few hours or the day before the rash appears.

·                One of the most striking features of chicken pox is how rapidly the skin eruptions change. The spots tend to appear in batches, resulting in your child having spots in different stages of development, at any point during the illness.

·         The rash generally begins on the trunk and spreads to the face and extremities.

·                Initially, the rash appears as tiny red dots or papules, approximately the size of a match head and may be mistaken for insect bites. The papules then develop an irregular outline (rose petals).

·                Within a few hours, a clear thin-walled, blister-like vesicle (dew drop), develops on top of the redness and is accompanied by a high fever, usually between 40-41°C.

·                This ‘dew drop on the rose petal’ is characteristic of the itchy, irritating rash caused by chicken pox.

·                After 8-12 hours, the fluid in the vesicle develops a cloudy appearance and the vesicle breaks, forming a crust.

·                Very rapidly, new drops of vesicles appear and develop in different stages. Therefore, as new red dots appear, other vesicles break, while others become ulcer-like in appearance, or begin forming crusts.

·                After 7 days, your child will start feeling better, the fever disappears and the lesions crust over to form scabs.

·                The most distressing symptom of chicken pox for children is the extreme itching.

·                Also the vesicles may erupt on very uncomfortable areas, including the vagina and the mucous membranes of the mouth. These mouth ulcers may cause your child pain and discomfort when eating.

·                Some children with chicken pox develop a bad cough (, 2010; Collins, 2003; Leary, 1990;, 2010).



The treatment of chicken pox is aimed at reducing the symptoms:

·                Soothe your child’s itchy spots with calamine lotion.

·                Give her frequent baths with warm water and a handful of bicarbonate of soda.

·                Paracetamol may be given to reduce fever and the aches often associated with the initial onset of the viral infection.

·                Ensure that your child has a sufficient intake of fluids.

·                Over-the-counter antihistamines may be helpful in controlling the itching, especially as a mild sedative at night.

·                Cut your child’s finger nails short to avoid injury from scratching or the development of a secondary bacterial infection (Collins, 2003; Leary, 1990;, 2010).


Possible complications


·                The most common complication of chicken pox in children is a secondary infection by the streptococcal bacteria, caused by scratching the spots. This requires an antibiotic ointment. Children with eczema are particularly prone.

·                Other possible complications involve the central nervous system:

o   Diseases of the cerebellum that produce cerebellar ataxia with wobbliness, dizziness,  

 tremor and altered speech.

o   Damaged nerves or nerve palsies.

o   Encephalitis.

·                Serious complications can occur in children with suppressed immune systems – AIDS, cancer, leukemia, lupus – as well as those taking immune suppressing drugs, such as corticosteroids.

·                Newborn babies have an increased risk of developing chicken pox if their mother contracts the disease during the third trimester of pregnancy.

·                Although one attack of chicken pox causes lifelong immunity to the disease, the virus remains dormant in the nerve cells of the body, and may produce shingles in adulthood (Collins, 2003;, 2010).


Call your doctor immediately if:

·                Your young baby contracts chicken pox.

·                Your child has reduced immunity due to an illness or medication.

·                Your child suffers from eczema.

·                There is pus coming out of the spots or the skin around the spots is red and inflamed.

·                Your child develops a severe cough, has seizures, is breathing rapidly, has a persistent or recurrent fever, is abnormally drowsy,  or seems to be unsteady on her feet.

·                Your child may require an oral antibiotic to treat the secondary bacterial infection.

·                Children with eczema may be given an antiviral drug, such as acyclovir.

·                If your child is seriously ill and is at high risk of developing complications, she may be hospitalised, in order for her to receive a 5-day course of intravenous acyclovir or varicella-zoster immune globulin (Collins, 2003).