Wednesday, December 1, 2010

18.11.10 - Ah Yang Shu Shu is down with Chicken pox

After Hazel recovered from her chicken pox .... Ah yang shu shu got it from her when he came over last week! :(
By Sujatha Rajagopal
When we were growing up, chicken pox was almost a rite of passage.
Depending on how much you liked school, you might have greeted it with open arms or dismissed it as a spotty nuisance.
Most of us survived the disease without the slightest complication. Some of us might have even proudly compared notes about sores on the palate or scalp. Ah… the ignorance of youth… how blissful it was not to know how serious chicken pox could actually be!
Yes, those blisters, slight as they may seem, are by no means as harmless as their moniker. This FAQ gives you the uncomfortable details.
What is chicken pox?
Chicken pox is a highly contagious viral disease characterised by small, red or brown fluid-filled blisters that can appear all over the face and body.
Who gets chicken pox?
Although chicken pox is more common in childhood, adolescents and adults can get it too. The disease is usually more severe in adults. Experts caution that chicken pox may also be more severe in kids who have eczema.
What causes chicken pox?
Chicken pox is caused by the Varicella zoster virus (VZV) which is actually related to the herpes virus family.
Why is it called “chicken” pox?
Interestingly, chicken pox has nothing to do with chickens. It’s said to be called by that name because our ancestors considered this form of the pox weaker (or more “chicken”) than the scary small pox.
What are the signs/ symptoms of chicken pox?

Blister-like spots.
Flu-like symptoms including cough and sore throat.
How long will the condition last?
The blisters will appear over one or two days usually on the back, abdomen or arms and then spread quickly over the next few days to the rest of the body, including the face, scalp and even inside the mouth! Some people may get a milder form of chicken pox with less spots or spots only on the body. After five to six days, the blisters will dry up to form a crusty scab. Until they heal, the spots can be very itchy and may leave open sores and later, scars, if scratched. Your child may need up to two weeks to completely recover. Once he has fully healed, he will likely have lifelong immunity against the disease.
How does chicken pox spread?
Airborne droplets (e.g. coughing and sneezing).
Direct contact with the blisters.
The disease is most contagious from a day or two before the blisters appear until the blisters are dry. Due to close proximity, be prepared for the child to spread the disease to his siblings.Once the child has no more fever and scabs have formed, there is little risk of giving someone else the disease.
However, it can be difficult to determine exactly when your child is most contagious because after he has been exposed to the virus, he can take up to 21 days to begin showing symptoms.
For the best advice on when your child will be ready for school again, please consult your doctor. Do note that a child who hasn’t had chicken pox can catch it from someone who is having shingles (but the child will not catch shingles).How is chicken pox treated?
The following are some of the steps your doctor might take to treat your child:

Giving him fever medicine and if necessary, flu medication.
Prescribing antibiotics if a child has scratched the blisters and they have become infected.
Suggesting a calming, anti-itch solution like Calamine lotion to be applied on the blisters.
Prescribing anti-viral drugs if your child is at risk of complications.
What can I do to ease my child’s discomfort?You can relieve the itchiness and overall discomfort by:

Applying a cool compress on the blisters.
Giving the child a lukewarm bath three to four times a day. Oatmeal solutions, available in pharmacies, have high anti-itching and anti-drying properties and are ideal for bathing blistered skin.
Patting (and not rubbing) the skin dry after a bath.
Applying Calamine lotion or other anti-itching lotions, as advised by your doctor.
Carefully adhering to all medication instructions from your doctor.
Modifying your child’s diet to include softer foods. This avoids aggravating blisters in the mouth and throat.
Cutting down on highly salty and acidic foods like potato chips and lemonade.
As much as possible, preventing the child from scratching.
Use mittens and trim the nails of younger children.
Also, ensure that your child practises good hygiene such as washing hands to reduce risk of spreading the disease to you and his siblings.
What complications does chicken pox produce?Possible complications include:

Shingles, also a rash-like condition. It can occur when the virus reactivates after lying dormant in the nervous system from an earlier episode of chicken pox.
Encephalitis or bacterial infection of the brain, which can lead to brain damage.
Bacterial infection of the skin, lungs, bones and joints.
Serious birth defects in your foetus if you were infected while pregnant.
Other complications such as unusual drowsiness, difficulty walking, inability to look at bright lights, stiff neck and confusion.

It is best to have a doctor see your child as soon as you suspect a chicken pox infection because this can help to reduce chances of possible complications.What’s the best way to prevent chicken pox?The chicken pox or Varicella vaccine prevents chicken pox in up to 90% of people injected. In Singapore, the vaccine is highly recommended for children between 18 months and 12 years of age. Although there is a slight possibility that your child may still get chicken pox despite being immunized, you can at least rest assured that the symptoms will be milder and less uncomfortable.Viral illnesses like chicken pox can seem very unassuming. But there can be a lot going on inside your child’s body that you are unaware of. Although the Varicella vaccine is not one of the compulsory immunizations required by the Ministry of Health, it is an option to consider carefully, especially since history has taught us never to take a virus for granted.This information is for educational purposes only. For more specific medical advice, diagnosis and treatment, we strongly suggest that you consult your doctor. If possible, review this information with your doctor before use.


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