Chicken Pox is a very infectious disease, which is most common in children under the age of 10 years. It is caused by the virus varicella zoster.
How is it spread?
Chicken pox is spread by being in the same room as someone with it. It is also spread by touching clothes or bedding contaminated with the fluid from the blisters.
How long is it infectious?
Chicken pox is normally infectious from 1-2 days before the rash appears until all the spots have scabbed/crusted over. This normally takes around 5 days.
What are the symptoms?
The time from contact with an infected person to getting symptoms is three weeks. It initially starts with red spots, which fill with fluid and become blisters. They may spread and commonly affect the face, arms, trunk, back and legs. The spots then start to scab over and more blisters may appear.
Other Symptoms include fever (above 38C), aches and pains and feeling unwell, loss of appetite.
It can be very itchy and cause distress in children.
You cannot catch shingles from someone who has had chickenpox, but you can catch chickenpox from someone who has shingles. Shingles occur because once you have had chickenpox the virus stays in your body and can be reactivated when your immune system is low.
What are the complications?
These complications may be rare in children, but can be worse if an adult catches chickenpox.
In children these include:
Secondary bacterial infection
Neurological complications such as meningitis and encephalitis
Very rarely inflammation of the kidneys and arthritis
Chickenpox in Pregnancy
Catching chickenpox while pregnant is a serious disease, especially for the baby. It is important to know whether or not you have had chicken pox before trying for a baby to see if you are immune and if vaccination is needed.
There is no specific treatment for chickenpox, the infection normally clears up on its own in a week's time.
In order to help make your child comfortable:
ensure that they drink plenty of fluids (try ice lollies if your child won't drink) - to avoid dehydration
you may give them paracetamol to help with pain and discomfort (DO NOT use ibuprofen)
put socks or mittens on their hands at night to stop scratching
cut their nails short
use cooling creams or gels from your pharmacy, e.g. Calamine
speak to your pharmacist about using antihistamine medicine to help the itching
bathe them in cool water and pat the skin dry (don't rub)
dress them in loose clothes
Check with your airline if you're going on holiday – many airlines won't allow you to fly with chickenpox.
Speak to your GP if the blisters seem to be getting infected, your child is dehydrated, or you are concerned about your child and they are getting worse.
See your GP urgently if you are an adult and you have chickenpox, or if you are pregnant/ have a weakened immune system and have never had chickenpox, or been in contact with someone with chickenpox or you think your new-born baby has chickenpox.
The chickenpox vaccine has been used routinely in some countries since 1995 and has shown to offer safe and effective prevention for chicken pox.
The vaccine is LIVE and contains the weakened form of the virus. Two vaccines provide 98% protection in children and 75% protection in adults. If a breakthrough infection does occur the infection will be more short-lived with milder symptoms.
The vaccine is normally two doses 4-8 weeks apart.
Who can have the vaccine?
The vaccine can be given to anyone over 12 months of age from the following categories:
Pre-exposure - to prevent the development of chickenpox
Non-immune healthcare workers
People in contact with those with a weakened immune system ( e.g. siblings, or children of anyone undergoing chemotherapy)
Post-exposure - to prevent chickenpox infection if the person has never had chickenpox and they have had close contact with someone with chickenpox. The first dose must be given within 3 days to stop the person from getting infected. If it is given within 3-5 days it can help control the severity of the disease.
If you are a female adult receiving the vaccine, you must wait ONE month after the last dose before becoming pregnant
"First class service and very friendly! "
"The hygienist and the receptionist were great! Friendly, professional and genuinely caring. Very happy with the service by them both. "