The childhood illness, chickenpox, can be uncomfortable and distressing for your baby but here are a few ways to ease the symptoms.
Chickenpox is a viral infection that usually causes a rash, like small blisters. The rash can be itchy but your baby’s other symptoms, such as a high temperature, are usually mild.
Chickenpox seems like a rite of passage – you want your baby to get it over with as soon as possible. There’s some sense in this, as infections earlier in life do tend to be less severe than when you’re an adult.
Chickenpox is a highly contagious childhood illness. Your baby is infectious for about four days before a rash appears and until all rash lesions have scabbed over, which usually takes about a week.
Your baby can catch chickenpox from a person with shingles, although this is less infectious. But he can’t catch shingles from someone with chickenpox.
Once your baby’s been in contact with chickenpox or shingles, it takes two to three weeks for the rash to appear.
It’s usually just a case of treating the symptoms: paracetamol or ibuprofen for a high temperature, and antihistamines and calamine lotion or ointment to help ease itching.
Adding bicarbonate of soda to bath water may also help soothe your baby’s itching.
Occasionally the rash may become infected - you’ll usually notice a rise in your baby’s temperature and redness around a spot. If this happens, antibiotics and a visit to the doctor may be needed. If your baby has immunity problems, the infection can be severe and will probably require early treatment to stop or minimise it.
Generally, when your baby has chickenpox he should be kept away from others as much as possible – no childcare or nursery until his lesions have scabbed over.
Also, advise anyone coming to see you that your baby has chickenpox. Avoid other people – you never know who is on steroids (which can suppress immunity, so put that person at risk of a more severe form of chickenpox) or who is pregnant.
In terms of health, a chest infection can occur (but this is usually in adults), but other complications are rare.
Shingles is a reactivation of the chickenpox virus in someone who’s previously had chickenpox, and looks like a rash in a patch or line.
Shingles is most common in the elderly, but it can occur in your baby and can be painful. Treatment may be given depending on your baby’s age and the area of his body that’s affected.
“Sam developed chickenpox on the way to our holiday in Cornwall. He had one spot when we left, and as we travelled the spots just kept appearing until he was covered. He was itchy and a bit miserable but we dosed him up with child paracetamol and an antihistamine and he was fine.
“Two weeks later his brother got it, too. He was still in nappies and had a lot of spots in the nappy area, which drove him mad – he spent a lot of time in the bath to keep cool.”
Rosy, 25, mum to Brian, 3, and Eddie, 1
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