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In A Glance: Chickenpox

What is it?

Also known as varicella, chickenpox is a common illness among children that causes an itchy rash and red spots or blisters all over the body. Most people will get chickenpox at some point of their lives if they have not had the chickenpox vaccine.

Chickenpox usually isn’t serious in healthy children. But it can cause problems for pregnant women and newborns.

What causes it?

Caused by the varicella-zoster virus that spreads easily, you can get it from direct contact with the fluid from a chickenpox blister or from an infected person who sneezes, coughs, or shares food or drinks.The virus is contagious and most easily spread from two to three days before the rash appears until all the blisters have crusted over.

How long does it last?

After a chickenpox red spot appears, it usually takes about one to two days for them to ‘mature’. This includes blistering, bursting, drying and crusting over. New red spots will appear everyday for up to five to seven days. You or your child can go back to work, school or daycare when all blisters have crusted over. This is usually about 10 days after the first symptoms show.

What can you do?

Most healthy children and adults need only rest and medicines to reduce fever and itching. Oatmeal baths can help with itching too. People with long-term diseases or other health problems may need immunoglobulin treatment (IG) or antiviral medicine.

If you have not had chickenpox and think you’ve been exposed to the virus, you may be able to get the chickenpox vaccine. Pregnant women should wait to get chickenpox vaccine until after they have given birth. It is advisable for women to practise safe intercourse one month after getting the chickenpox vaccine.

Phone your doctor right away if…

…your baby is a newborn or if you are pregnant. This is especially important for pregnant women, since chickenpox during early pregnancy can cause birth defects.

Also, seek your doctor’s advice if you or your child has a fever of more than 38.9°C that lasts longer than two days, severe itching that cannot be relieved by home treatment, chickenpox rash on the eyeball and rashes that lasts longer than two weeks.


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