Chickenpox is still a common childhood disease, and your child could get it. The vaccine has made it less common than in the past. However, many children still suffer from the disease each year. While most children get through the disease without complications, some may need to visit the pediatrician for help. Here is more information about chickenpox, its symptoms, and when you should visit your pediatrician.
What Is Chickenpox?
Chickenpox is the common name for a varicella-zoster virus infection. This disease is highly contagious. It is spread through the air like influenza or from touching the associated rash of an infected person. Most people only get chickenpox once in their life, but some get it twice, though that is rare. Generally, symptoms start between 10 and 21 days after exposure. The disease takes about a week to run its course.
What Are Chickenpox Symptoms?
Chickenpox has a characteristic itchy rash with fluid-filled blisters. The blisters appear over several days. Eventually, the blisters scab over and heal. Children are most contagious about two days before the rash starts and while the rash is active. Your child may also have a fever and not feel well.
What Are the Complications of Chickenpox?
Complications in otherwise healthy children are very rare. However, some can have potential problems. For example, severe cases could result in bacterial skin infections and pneumonia. Encephalitis, or swelling in the brain, is also a risk.
Who Is Most at Risk for Complications?
Very young infants and unvaccinated adults and teens who have not had chickenpox are most at risk for complications. Also, anyone with a comprised immune system will have less ability to fight off the disease. Pregnant women who have not had chickenpox are also at higher risk of a severe case with complications.
When Should a Child See a Pediatrician?
See your pediatrician if the child with chickenpox is an infant under six months old. If the rash seems tender or unusually warm, it could indicate an infection. Also, a high fever, stiff neck, and vomiting are other serious signs that need a pediatrician's attention. Do not give your child or teen aspirin without talking to the doctor. Aspirin taken during a chickenpox infection is associated with Reye's syndrome.
Other than avoiding people with the disease, vaccination is the most effective way to prevent the virus. Getting vaccinated also reduces the risk of painful shingles later in life. Check with your pediatrician to see if getting the vaccine is right for your child. If your child is having a hard time with a current chickenpox infection, talk to your pediatrician right away.