What is this itch and will it go away? A look into chickenpox

No one really knows how chickenpox got its name. Some have speculated that the itchy disease was named after the chickpea-like blisters that it causes on the skin; others have compared the blisters to peck marks made by a chicken.

Whatever the case, what we do know about chickenpox is that it is one of the most common childhood infections caused by a virus called varicella-zoster. This extremely contagious disease can be spread through contact with the infected person’s blisters and bodily fluids such as saliva or mucus. In fact, it is so contagious, the virus can even be airborne and transmitted through coughing and sneezing!

Can I prevent my child from getting chickenpox? 

The answer is yes! Scientists have developed a vaccine to help prevent chickenpox, suitable for children from 12 to 15 months. As of 2020, the Singapore government has also made it free for eligible Singaporean children to get vaccinated against the disease. Contracting chickenpox in your later years can lead to more severe symptoms. Do consider vaccinating your child against this infectious disease. 

How do I know if my child has chickenpox?

While you may think that the first symptom of chickenpox would be the formation of an angry, itchy rash, this is actually rarely the case. Even before the onset of rashes, your child may experience symptoms such as fatigue, fever and a headache. 

If you go on to observe small, tiny blemish-like rashes on your child’s skin after these symptoms, it is likely that we have a case of chickenpox on our hands. 

These rashes will spread and appear in waves for approximately two to four days. They will then develop into fluid-filled blisters which will eventually burst, leaving behind open sores. After drying up, these sores can turn into brown scabs, which can also lead to scarring of the skin if not treated properly. 

What should I do if my child contracts it? 

If your child is suffering from chickenpox, do not fret! Here are several things that you can do to help alleviate the ailments your child is afflicted with.

  • Apply a cool compress / wet towels on affected areas of the skin regularly to relieve itching. You can also apply them to their foreheads to help with fevers.
  • After showering your little one, apply topical creams such as a calamine lotion to relieve them of the unbearable itch. 
  • If your child has a fever, consult a doctor immediately. The attending doctor will assess your child’s condition, and may prescribe them with the appropriate fever medication. For example, medications containing acetaminophen or ibuprofen are medically safe for children. 

However, exercise caution when giving aspirin to your child during a viral illness. Doing so can lead to a potentially fatal condition called Reye’s syndrome, which induces sudden brain damage and liver function problems. The syndrome can also cause seizures, coma, and even death.

Remember to always consult a doctor before giving your child any medication, so as to avoid any nasty health complications. Please also consult a doctor if the following conditions persists:

  • A fever that lasts for more than four days
  • Blisters that leak pus, or that have become red and swollen
  • Constant vomiting
  • Difficulty breathing and constant coughing

Should you observe persistent or even worsening symptoms, teleconsult a Paediatrician on the WhiteCoat app with your child for eczema / rashes. Experience the convenience of remote care for your child, and receive the required care and medication from the comfort of your own home. Click here to find out more about our Paediatrics service, or click here to go back to the blog.