What is Chickenpox-
A very common disease, which also goes by the name of Varicella, Chickenpox is a highly contagious infectious disease. In this case, you can find fluid-filled blisters that appear first on the trunk part of the body, followed by the face.
Then it is a matter of a few hours to one day before they start appearing everywhere in the body of the patient.
The virus which is responsible for chickenpox is known as the Varicella-zoster virus. In today’s era, there is a vaccine that has been proven effective for protecting children against Chickenpox.
The use of the vaccine is highly recommended for people who are likely in touch with chickenpox patients as it is highly infectious in nature.
It has been observed that there is a particular cycle which this infectious disease follows. It starts with a chickenpox infection that enters the body of the patient.
Then between a gap of 10 to 21 days, the fluid-filled rashes start to show up on the body and the entire duration of their presence can be between 5 to 10 days.
Apart from this, there are certain other symptoms that appear just a couple of days before the blisters appear.
The symptoms are :
a. Loss of appetite.
b. Tiredness and lack of energy inside the body.
Once the chickenpox blisters appear, the entire disease goes through three different stages.
They are described as under:
- Stage 1 - You will find raised red or pink coloured papules appearing all over the body. This takes a few days to appear and grow on various parts of the body.
- Stage 2 - In this stage, these bumps are filled with fluid. This takes about one day. Once the bumps are formed, they leak after some time.
- Stage 3 - Then the outer skin which covers these bumps(scabs) gets dry and takes several days to heal and break away from the skin.
Interesting Trivia - It is one of those diseases, where All the stages of the diseases are running together on the same body simultaneously.
This means that if a particular group of scabs is coming off on the 5 days, there could be another group of bumps or blisters which are appearing on that day itself. The whole affair is very unbearably itchy.
Note - If a particular patient is suffering from this disease, the people near him/her should be cautious as this infection can spread very easily. As a patient, you may end up transmitting the virus to others.
So it is better to keep the patient without any outside contact, till the blasted have turned into scabs and fallen off.
As far as children are concerned, if kids get affected by it they have a very mild infection, which is why they can be kept safe from the infection if vaccines are administered on time to them.
In cases of severe chickenpox, the patient’s entire body parts including private ones can be affected by the rashes.
As far as the diagnosis of chickenpox is concerned, it is done by the doctors based on the rashes that appear on the patient’s body. A simple physical verification is more than enough most of the times for most doctors to diagnose a case of chickenpox.
However, if there are suspicions regarding the nature of the rashes, ten the presence of chickenpox can be confirmed by laboratory tests which include blood tests and/or culture of lesion samples
When to see a doctor?
If you have come into contact with any chickenpox patient or are suspecting in any way that you might have the virus inside you then you should immediately consult a doctor without any further delay.
If the rashes are visible, the doctor would immediately check for chickenpox and once confirmed, would also prescribe certain medicines which could provide some relief to the patient and reduce the severity of chickenpox.
Advice - If you are sure that you suffer from the early stages of chickenpox and wish to see the doctor, take a prior appointment from the doctor and ensure that the doctor knows about your symptoms properly. This would help other people from getting affected by staying away from you as a patient.
Some of the things which you can possibly tell the doctor during fixing the appointment are :
- Whether you have rashes, that has spread to both of your eyes.
- You can inform about the rash’s features like whether it is warm or red or both.
- You can also tell him/her about whether you are having symptoms like shortness of breath, vomiting, worsening cough, dizziness or running a fever which could be around 102 F or even higher.
- Whether any of your family members or house members have an issue with their immunity or whether there is a kid who is below 6 months old.
Causes of Chickenpox-
It is also possible to spread it via air as and when the patient sneezes in front of you and the virus gets transmitted into your body.
As a normal person, the chances of you being infected with the varicella-zoster virus is much higher, if you have never had chickenpox in your life earlier.
Also if you never had never got the vaccine administered inside you, then you are under threat from chickenpox.
It has been observed that most of the people who were earlier vaccinated for chickenpox have not got chickenpox after their vaccination. However, a few people still get affected by the chickenpox even after vaccination.
However, such patents need not worry too much as due to the earlier vaccinations, the symptoms get milder and the concerned person does not suffer that much which a person who has not taken vaccines suffers.
Do people get chickenpox more than once - The answer is - Yes, some of them do in a very scarce condition.
Though chickenpox is not something which can be considered as a serious life-threatening disease, yet if it can get pretty serious it would lead to a lot of unwanted complications, such as :
- Bacterial infections of bones and skin along with joints or bloodstream
- Toxic Shock Syndrome
- Reye’s syndrome in kids, in case the patient has taken aspirin during chickenpox.
Who all are at risk?
The kind of individuals who are at high risk are:
- Pregnant ladies who have never contracted chickenpox in their childhood or adolescent.
- The newborn babies of these mothers mentioned above.
- Individuals who have been through medication processes for chemotherapy, cancer or HIV causing their immune systems to be weakened due to the effects of those medicines.
- Individuals who are taking medications for asthma.
Treatment of Chickenpox-
As far as the kids are concerned, if a kid is suffering from chickenpox and has been a healthy child prior to this, there is no need for any medical treatment.
The disease is allowed to continue its cycle and gets over in approximately 5 to 10 days of time. However, as far as the itchiness is concerned, antihistamines could be prescribed by the doctors to provide some relief.
For people who are prone to complications
There are certain people who always have a higher chance of getting affected by chickenpox. For them, the doctor sometimes prescribes medicines which help them in shortening the three stages of chickenpox in them.
Now as the duration is shortened, therefore the risk of complications is also minimized.
Medicines for Chickenpox-
If an adult or his/her children are most likely to get infected by the chickenpox virus, in that particular case, the doctor may suggest certain antivirals such as immune globulin intravenous (Privigen).
Some other doctors may also suggest acyclovir (Zovirax, Sitavig). Even though these medicines may not completely heal the chickenpox immediately, yet they may reduce the severity of chickenpox, if they are administered within 24 hours after the first rashes appear on the patient’s body.
There are certain other medications a s well but they are not fit for everyone and need to be prescribed after considering a lot of other things including other medicines that a patient is consuming at the present moment.
These medicines such as valacyclovir (Valtrex) and famciclovir help in reducing the severity of the disease.
Also, it has been observed that sometimes, the doctor prescribes the vaccines after the patient has already been infected by the chickenpox virus to reduce the severity of the disease.
Treating serious cases and complications
As afar as the severity of the disease is concerned, it is the doctor who would determine the appropriate course of treatment.
Depending on the diagnosis results, the doctor may recommend antibiotics for pneumonia and skin infections.
If there is a case of brain inflammation which is known as encephalitis, it would be treated with antiviral medications.
In certain cases, the patient may be suggested to take admission to the hospital for regular monitoring.
Chickenpox and pregnancy - The unwanted connection and complications
If the would-be mothers are affected by chickenpox in the early stages of their pregnancy, then babies are likely to suffer from low weight and limb abnormalities during their birth.
However, if the mother gets infected just before a week or after some days of giving birth to the child, the baby gets more prone to getting infected by a life-threatening infectious virus.
Advice for Pregnant Women-
If you did not take vaccines earlier, you must always consult a doctor to understand the complications of chickenpox and also understand the various safety measures that you need to undertake to keep both of you safe.
Chickenpox & Shingles-
Before we explain to you the connection, let us inform you that Shingles is a viral infection that appears mostly on the right or left side of your body just above your waistline. This infection causes a very painful rash.
Now coming to the connection between shingles and Chickenpox, what you need to know is that if a patient is suffering from chickenpox, there is a high chance that he/she may also be infected with shingles.
The virus ( varicella-zoster ) which is responsible for chickenpox, remains inside the nerve cells of the patient even after the skin infection has healed.
It lies in a dormant state but can come back to life after a few years. When it comes back, it comes in the avatar of shingles which can be aptly described as a group of blisters causing immense pain.
The people whose immunity has decreased such as senior citizens are more likely to get affected by the shingles.
‘Postherpetic neuralgia’ is the name given to the pain caused by Shingles. This pain can remain for a long period of time even after the blisters are gone.
Are there any Shingles vaccines available for chickenpox affected patients?
Yes there are two vaccines available
The first one - Shingrix is recommended for those people who are above 5o years of age or older. This includes people who have not received Zostavax earlier.
The second vaccine Zostavax is not recommended for patients below 60 years. Shingrix is preferred over Zostavax under normal circumstances.
Prevention of Chickenpox-
One of the best ways to prevent chickenpox is the Varicella Vaccine.
According to the experts present in the CDC ( Centers for Disease Control and Prevention ), 98 percent of people who have received both recommended doses are most likely to never get infected from chickenpox.
But for the remaining 2 percent of people, even if it infects them, the symptoms and severity will be very mild as compared to normal time complications where patients did not opt for vaccines.
There is another vaccine, known as Varivax. This vaccine is recommended for the following :
Young kidsAs it happens in the US, kids between the age group of 1 year and 1.3 years and kids between the age group of 4 to 6 years get two doses respectively at the above-mentioned ages.
It may be noted that as a part of a special program, the vaccine could also be clubbed with rubella, measles and mumps vaccine.
However one needs to be careful as this combination may increase the fear of seizure and fever. It would be ideal to have a good discussion with the doctor before combining and vaccines together.
Older unvaccinated childrenKids who come in the bracket of 7 to 12 years need to receive two doses so that they can keep up with others, in case they have not received the vaccine earlier.
Also, teenagers who are 13 or more should receive two keep up doses in case they have not been vaccinated earlier.
Adults who had neither vaccines nor chickenpox earlierThe list includes people from all walks of life including military personnel, teachers, travelers, and even health care workers who live with kids and all the females who are in the childbearing age.
Vaccination detailsThe adolescent people receive two doses of vaccines in a 4 to 8 weeks interval. Now for adults those who do not remember whether they had suffered from chickenpox or have taken vaccines or not, a simple blood test would answer all your queries.
In Spite of all of its benefits, the chickenpox is not beneficial for the following people:
- People who are allergic to antibiotic neomycin or gelatin
- People suffering from weak immune systems due to a variety of medications for other diseases.
- Pregnant Women
For women who are planning pregnancies, it is important to visit their doctor so that she has all the vaccines before she goes ahead with the pregnancy plan.
Are Chickenpox vaccines safe and effective?
Since the invention of vaccines, they have been found to be reliable and trustworthy in most of cases barring a few which are extremely rare in nature.
However, there could be certain small time side effects of these vaccines including small bumps, soreness, redness, and swelling.