Chicken Pox

A common viral infection, chicken pox can affect any young child or baby. You may think your child has symptoms of a cold when it is acutally the beginning of chicken pox. Most children get it under the age of 15, but anyone can contract it. Usually you can contract it only one time in your life, but occasionally the virus that causes chicken pox can crop up again in the form of shingles, another much more serious manifestion of the virus.

What Causes Chicken Pox?

Chicken pox is caused by exposure to the Varicella-Zoster virus and spreads through coughing and sneezing or through contact with fluid from inside the chicken pox blisters.

What Are the Symptoms of Chicken Pox?

The main symptom of chicken pox is a red, irritating, itchy rash on the skin. It usually crops up first on the abdomen, back or face and then spreads all over the body. The rash starts as red itchy bumps that look like insect bites or stings, which then turn into fluid-filled blisters. They eventually break open into sores and then finally start to heal over, leaving dried-out brownish-looking scabs that will fade over time, but possibly will leave scars. The sores usually appear over the period of 2 to 4 days and can be more severe if your child has any kind of skin disorder. Some children can contract a fever as well as abdominal pain. Younger children usually have milder symptoms and/or fewer blisters. Some parents report a runny nose just before the illness starts.

What's Involved in Treating Chicken Pox?

As a rule, chicken pox will takes its course and usually no treatment is prescribed, although antibiotics may be needed if the sores on your child are infected by bacteria. There is also a vaccine present for children, although it is only for children 12 months or older. It is around 70 to 80 percent effective in blocking mild infection and 95 percent or more effective in blocking severe infection. Children who have received the vaccine and still contract the disease experience less severe symptoms and a speedier recovery.

Is Chicken Pox Contagious?

Chicken pox is extremely contagious, and it is contagious from about two days before the rash begins until all the sores have dried up.

Pregnant women are at extreme risk and should be kept away from children who have contracted the virus. If a pregnant woman who has never contracted the virus before contracts the disease, the baby inside could be born with defects. If she has had the disease before, the natural immunity should be passed on to the baby through the mother's breast milk, but there is no guarantee that the baby will not contract the disease. Basically, anyone infected with the virus should be isolated for about two weeks or until the blisters scab over, although it's not necessary to keep your child isolated until the scabs fall off.

<< Return to Child Health Care >>