What is Chickenpox?
Chickenpox is a type of infection that typically affects young children and results in blisters on the skin. It is a viral condition caused by the chickenpox virus, which is known as the varicella-zoster virus. Chickenpox is a disease that is easily identified without a medical examination, and it is usually prevented by vaccination. People that receive chickenpox vaccinations rarely contract it, or they experience less severe symptoms than those that have not been vaccinated.
Do I Need to See My Doctor if I Have Chickenpox?
A doctor is necessary for treatment of chickenpox patients who have not been vaccinated, are pregnant, or have weakened immune systems (such as people with HIV/AIDS, organ transplant patients, or patients on immunosuppressant drugs). Many people tend to take self-medications during the condition; however, it is advisable to take prior consultation with the doctor so that proper guidance can be provided for the treatment and management of chickenpox or any other health problem. A doctor can diagnose other additional complications that may occur during this disease. Patients should also see a doctor if they notice the following signs and symptoms:
- stiff neck
- frequent vomiting
- difficulty breathing or walking
- high fever for more than five days
- fever above 104 degrees
What are the Typical Treatments for Chickenpox?
In patients with high fevers, painkillers like paracetamol are often used. Paracetamol, a type of mild analgesic, is commonly used in the treatment of chickenpox virus, because it doesn’t cause negative skin reactions or other side effects, unlike other drugs such as ibuprofen. Paracetamol is also best for treating pregnant women with chickenpox. However, ibuprofen can be used in a situation when the patient has no asthma and is older three months of age. However, patients should never be given aspirin if they have chickenpox. One must understand that this medication does not fight the virus but gives relief from the pain and fever that usually accompany the chickenpox.
- Stay Hydrated
It is important for anyone suffering from chickenpox to stay hydrated so that their body can fight off the infection and work properly. Water is also important so that a patient's body temperature can be regulated even with a fever. Sugar-free lollipops may help ensure that young children are hydrated and may also assist in getting rid of chickenpox marks in the mouth. Avoid salty meals that can be dehydrating and can make chickenpox in the mouth sore. An individual is allowed to consume more and more amount of liquids, including fresh fruit and vegetable juices, lemon water, plain water, and coconut water; however, this does not include the colas and other carbonated drinks. Packaged juices should also be avoided, because they contain added sugar and preservatives that might not be good for the patient.
- Stop Scratching
Chickenpox is often a very itchy and uncomfortable condition. However, it is important to resist the urge to scratch the affected areas, because this can worsen a patient's condition and cause more severe skin problems. The blisters that develop during the chickenpox are very contagious, and scratching them can increase the susceptibility of spreading the infection. If the blisters fill with fluid, then a person should avoid touching them, as the fluid contains the active virus that can infect other people in the surroundings. This can be made easier by keeping nails short and clean, applying cooling gels for sore skin, and even using chlorphenamine in severe cases. Dressing in tight clothing can irritate the chickenpox and cause itching, so it is important to dress accordingly. One should always be wearing pure cotton clothes that are loosely fit, such as cotton gowns.
- Reduce Discomfort from Fever
Fever caused by the chickenpox virus may cause discomfort. If the infected person is already being treated with painkillers or fever-reducing medications, the best thing to do is often to treat the physical symptoms. For example, those affected by a high fever should not wear clothing intended for extreme warmth or extreme cold. Avoiding bathing in cold water could also help to avoid painful sensations caused by fever.
- Antiviral Drugs
Some other drugs that are more powerful and can be effective in treating chickenpox are antiviral medications. Acyclovir is the most commonly used of the antivirals, and it is often prescribed to pregnant women, newborn babies, and people who develop a rash or have a compromised immune system. Antiviral drugs such as acyclovir do not treat the chickenpox virus; they merely reduce the symptoms and physical effects of the condition. This medication is helpful only when it is given within 24 hours of the appearance of the blisters or rashes.
- Antibacterial Drugs
These drugs are prescribed in the cases where the chicken pox is accompanied with other bacterial skin infections or pneumonia.
- Home Remedies
There are multiple home remedies that are used during the treatment of chickenpox. Some of these methods include oatmeal or baking soda baths that help in easing the itching. Itching can also be relieved by dabbing calamine lotion or other lotions that are free from perfumes over the lesions. If there are any sores in the mouth, then gargling with warm water with half a teaspoon of salt can help in easing them. Chloraseptic sprays or lozenges which consist of mild anesthetics can be used for older children.
Can Chickenpox Be Prevented?
Chickenpox is often preventable by vaccination. Immunoglobulin is used in the vaccine that protects people from contracting it. The vaccination lessens the symptoms in cases that are contracted after vaccination. Varicella-zoster immunoglobulin contains antibodies that protect the body against the chickenpox virus. This form of immunoglobulin is normally applied to a person through injection into a vein. This vaccine is used to protect people who are extremely susceptible to the virus, including pregnant mothers, newborn babies, and immunocompromised patients. Pregnant mothers should definitely be given the injection so that their children do not contract the virus. The varicella-zoster immunoglobulin vaccine is minimal in supply, and it is therefore given only to those who are frequently exposed to the virus and are extremely susceptible to the virus, including those who contract chickenpox for the first time.
There are many ways to treat the symptoms of chickenpox, including prescription medications and home remedies. However, it is best to prevent the spread of chickenpox through vaccinations and preventative measures, such as avoiding contact with the virus.