Causes and treatments of chicken pox
Chicken pox is an infection that can be extremely unpleasant and uncomfortable, and in rare cases even life-threatening. Chicken pox is caused by the varicella-zoster virus (which has an incubation period of 10-21 days), and the infection is known for being highly contagious, spreading similarly to the way the common cold spreads between people.
It usually is easy to diagnose by medical professionals due to its trademark rash of red spots which can blister. However, several symptoms commonly occur before the rash becomes visible, such as fever, muscle ache, nausea, and a loss of appetite.
The rash lifecycle
The rash will generally last between 1-2 weeks, during which the patient should self-isolate to avoid infecting others. The rash can range in severity from a few small patches to one covering most of the skin surface.
The spots that are characteristic of chicken pox develop in clusters that generally manifest in areas like the stomach, face, limbs and chest. These red spots are uncomfortably itchy, especially if blisters begin to form over them.
If blisters form, they will generally begin to cloud over within 48 hours or so. The crust that develops will typically fall off in about 10 days or so. During the 10 to 21 day period of the infection, different clusters of chicken pox may be at different stages on their lifecycle, with some being crusty and some being freshly itchy.
Most healthy people with typical symptoms can recover without medical intervention by resting and drinking plenty of fluids. However, some individuals can have more severe symptoms like especially painful blisters or difficulties with breathing. In these situations, a medical professional should be engaged.
Treatment of chicken pox
As mentioned, most healthy people can recover from chicken pox at home within 1 to 2 weeks. However, those struggling with the symptoms can reduce the discomfort they feel in a variety of ways.
Aspirin products should not be used to treat the symptoms of chicken pox; instead, acetaminophen products should be used to ease fever-like symptoms. Sufferers must try to avoid dehydration. Those with spots in or around their mouth should avoid spicy or salty foods that will enhance inflammation.
The most important thing that chicken pox suffers can do is refrain from scratching the itchy patches. While itching can provide temporary relief, it can ultimately increase the risk of scarring the skin permanently. It is advised to use topical lotions, wear loose clothing, and keep fingernails short and clean to minimise the risk of damaging scratching.
There is a vaccine for chickenpox that is commonly administered to children.
For some sufferers, especially adults, chickenpox can lead to further complications. This is often caused by bacterial infection of the blisters caused by scratching with unclean fingernails. Some sufferers can develop pneumonia as a complication of chicken pox.
What to do
If you think you may have chicken pox, but are unsure, it’s a good idea for you to self-isolate, and seek a medical diagnosis from a doctor.
Using Instant Consult, you can speak with a registered GP from home via video consultation.
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