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February 8, 2024

Chickenpox is a highly contagious viral infection. It is primarily associated with childhood but can affect individuals of any age. Caused by the varicella-zoster virus (VZV), chickenpox manifests with characteristics like itchy skin lesions. In severe cases, it can lead to complications.

What is chickenpox?

Chickenpox is an infectious disease that causes an itchy, blister-like skin rash. It’s caused by the varicella-zoster virus. Chickenpox is highly contagious. However, it is considerably less prevalent today since there is a vaccine that protects against it. Chickenpox is most common among children, although it can also infect adults.

What causes chickenpox?

The varicella-zoster virus is a member of the herpesvirus family. It is responsible for causing both chickenpox and shingles. It is highly contagious, primarily spreading through respiratory droplets expelled by an infected person. It can also spread by direct contact with the fluid from the blisters of an infected individual.

What are the symptoms of chickenpox?

The chickenpox rash appears 10 to 21 days following exposure to the varicella-zoster virus. The rash normally lasts 5-10 days. Other symptoms that can appear 1-2 days before the rash include:

·      Loss of appetite

·      Headache

·      Fever

·      Tiredness and a general sense of being ill.

The chickenpox rash develops in three stages:

·      Raised pimples known as papules appear over a few days.

·      Formation of fluid-filled blisters called vesicle that breaks and leaks.

·      Crusts and scabs form around the broken blisters. These crusts and scabs take a few days to heal.

New bumps keep appearing for several days. So, you may have pimples, blisters, and scabs at the same time.

Complications of Chickenpox

While chickenpox is usually a self-limiting illness, it can lead to complications, particularly in certain populations:

1.  Bacterial Infections: Scratching the blisters can lead to bacterial infections.

2.  Pneumonia: It’s a rare but severe complication, especially in adults and individuals with weakened immune systems.

3.  Encephalitis: It’s an extremely rare but serious complication.

Other complications may include:

·      Dehydration

·      Blood clot issues

·      Liver problems

Who is at risk?

Individuals with a higher risk of chickenpox complications include:

·      Teenagers and grownups.

·      Newborns and newborns whose mothers had never received chickenpox or the vaccine. This includes children under the age of one who have yet to receive the immunization.

·      Pregnant ladies who have not had chickenpox.

·      People who have cancer or HIV and are taking immune-modulating medicines.

·      Individuals that smoke.

·      People with a chronic disease, such as asthma, who require immunosuppressive medications. Or those who have undergone an organ transplant and take medication to suppress the immune system’s activity.

Prevention and treatment

Preventing and treating chickenpox revolves around:

·      Vaccination- The most effective prevention method is the varicella vaccine. It is administered in two doses during childhood. This vaccine not only reduces the risk of contracting chickenpox. It also lowers the chances of developing severe complications. 

·      Good hygiene practices– Regular handwashing, especially after contact with an infected person, aids in preventing transmission. If infected, individuals should quarantine to avoid spreading the virus and seek medical attention.

·      Prompt medical care– OTC antihistamines help alleviate itching. Acetaminophen or ibuprofen may reduce fever and discomfort. In severe cases, antiviral medications prescribed by a healthcare professional can expedite recovery and minimize complications

Timely vaccination and adherence to preventive measures remain crucial in managing and curbing the impact of chickenpox.

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