Chickenpox is a common and usually mild infection that’s extremely contagious. Chances are if your child hasn’t had it before school, they will once they start due to the close contact in the classroom!
Chickenpox, medically known as varicella, is an infection caused by a virus called the varicella-zoster virus. It spreads quickly and easily through the coughs and sneezes of someone who is infected, which is why it’s common for schoolchildren.
Chickenpox usually starts with flu-like symptoms, which include nausea, headaches, aching muscles, a loss of appetite and a high temperature. This usually starts one to two days before an itchy red rash appears. These red, itchy spots can turn into fluid-filled blisters.
Some children may only have a few spots, while others may be covered from head to toe. The most common areas are behind the ears, on the chest, stomach, arms and legs as well as appearing on the face and scalp.
The blisters then crust over to form scabs, which will eventually fall off naturally, usually within one to two weeks after the start of the fever-like symptoms.
Chickenpox is most common in children under 10 and is so common that 90% of adults are actually immune to the condition because they’ve had it before, says the NHS.
Children will more than likely catch the infection throughout winter and spring, particularly between the months of March and May.
Chickenpox is a fairly obvious infection because the red spots are very distinctive. Chickenpox, for most children, will recover on its own so there’s no need to take them to the doctor.
However, some children become more seriously ill when they develop the infection. Go to your doctor straight away if any of your child’s blisters become infected or if they have difficulty breathing.
No. Doctors suggest you keep your child off school until the spots have all crusted over, to prevent the infection from spreading. This usually takes five or six days after the rash begins.
Make sure you wash any infected clothing or bedding regularly, to prevent anyone else in your household from getting the infection.
You should also try to keep your child away from public areas as some people, who may or may not have had chickenpox before, are at a higher risk, like pregnant women or anyone with a weakened immune system.
While there’s no specific treatment for chickenpox, you can give your child paracetamol to relieve any fever symptoms, but remember to read the packet first. During the fever stage, make sure they’re wearing loose-fitting garments to help stop the skin from becoming sore and irritated.
Calamine lotion and cooling gels will help ease itching - just make sure they don’t scratch or they may have scarring in the future. Another way to stop the scratching is to keep your child’s fingernails clean and short. The NHS suggests you place socks over your child’s hands at night to stop them itching in their sleep.
It’s also important to keep your child hydrated and avoid giving them any salty food that may make the mouth sore, as some children will get chickenpox spots in there too.
Other infections like tonsillitis, verrucas, impetigo, molluscum contagiosum, threadworms, ear infections, ringworm, diarrhoea and vomiting are also common for your child to catch during school.
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