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Chickenpox is a viral infection caused by the varicella-zoster virus. It is characterized by symptoms like itchy rash with small, fluid-filled blisters. Chickenpox is highly contagious to people who haven't had the disease or been vaccinated against it. Routine vaccination is recommended to protect children against infection. If your child hasn’t been vaccinated yet and would like more information about it, find doctors online in Pakistan by downloading My live doctors app on your smartphone. 

What causes chickenpox?

Chickenpox infection is caused by a virus and can spread through direct contact with the rash. It can also spread when a person with the chickenpox coughs or sneezes and you inhale the air droplets.

Risk factors

You are at a greater risk of becoming infected with the varicella-zoster virus that causes chickenpox if you haven't already had chickenpox or if you haven't had the chickenpox vaccine. Individuals who work in child care or school settings are at a greater risk and need to be vaccinated. 

Most people who have had chickenpox or have been vaccinated against chickenpox are immune to chickenpox. However sometimes you can still get chickenpox even after vaccination but symptoms are often milder. The blisters tend to be fewer with mild to no fever. Getting chickenpox more than once is rare.

Which people are at risk?

People who are more likely to get chickenpox complications are:

  • Newborns and infants whose mothers never had chickenpox or the vaccine
  • Adolescents and adults
  • Pregnant women 
  • Smokers
  • People with weak or compromised immune systems 
  • People on steroid medications for another disease or condition, such as asthma

If you think you have one or more of these risk factors or are at higher risk of getting chickenpox and haven’t had the vaccine yet then talk to your doctor about getting you and your child vaccinated. For expert medical advice at home find doctors online and book a tele-appointment with doctor in Pakistan

Signs and Symptoms 

Blisters and rash caused by chickenpox infection appear 10 to 21 days after exposure to the virus and usually lasts about five to 10 days. Other signs and symptoms, which may appear a few day before the rash, include:

  • Fever
  • Loss of appetite
  • Headache
  • Tiredness and a general feeling of being unwell (malaise)

If you or your child gets chickenpox you may be able to note that it goes through the following 3 phases:

  1. Raised pink or red bumps (papules), which break out over several days
  2. Small fluid-filled blisters (vesicles), which form in about one day and then break and leak
  3. Crusts and scabs, which cover the broken blisters. This is the healing phase

Since this is an ongoing infection you might notice all 3 stages appearing at the same time. The infection is contagious for up to 48 hours before the rash appears, and the virus remains contagious until all broken blisters have crusted over. So it is better to keep your child at home and not send to school until all the blisters have crusted over. If you want a doctor’s note then schedule a tele-appointment with doctor and get one from the comfort of your own home. 

Healthy children usually have the milder form of infection. In severe cases, the rash can cover the entire body, and lesions may form in the throat, eyes, and mucous membranes of the urethra, anus and vagina.

When should you see a doctor?

If you think you or your child might have chickenpox go to your doctor immediately. A confirmed diagnosis is usually made by examining the rash and considering other symptoms. You can also show your rash and blisters on live video consultation. Your online doctor may prescribe medications to lessen the severity of chickenpox symptoms. To avoid transmitting the infection to other individuals  at the hospital or in the waiting room, call ahead for an appointment or inform the concerned personnel about your condition. Or get an online medical consultation by booking an appointment at My live doctors. 

It is important to tell the doctor if you have the following symptoms:

  • The rash spreads to one or both eyes.
  • The rash gets very red, warm or tender. 
  • The rash is accompanied by dizziness, disorientation, rapid heartbeat, shortness of breath, tremors, loss of muscle coordination, worsening cough, vomiting, stiff neck or a fever higher than 102 F (38.9 C).
  • Anyone in the household has a problem with his or her immune system or is younger than 6 months.

Book a tele-appointment with doctor in Pakistan at My live doctors.

Chickenpox can be harmful for the baby if contracted during pregnancy. It can cause low birth weight and limb abnormalities are more common among women infected with chickenpox early in their pregnancy. When a mother is infected with chickenpox in the week before birth or within a couple of days after giving birth, her baby has a higher risk of developing a serious, life-threatening infection.

If you’re pregnant and think you may have chickenpox then talk to your doctor about it. 

Is chickenpox and shingles the same thing?

Shingles is the term used for recurrent chickenpox infection that usually occurs in adult life. If you have had chickenpox in childhood, the varicella-zoster virus remains in your nerve cells even after the infection is over. Many years later, the virus can reactivate and cause shingles, It manifest as a painful cluster of short-lived blisters. The virus is more likely to reappear in older adults and people who have weakened immune systems. The pain of shingles can persist long after the blisters disappear. 

Shingles vaccines are available for adults who have had chickenpox. 

How do you treat chickenpox?

There is no pill that can cure chickenpox. It completes its course and heals on its own. Your doctor may prescribe an antihistamine or soothing lotion to relieve itching. In complicated cases or in individuals who are at a higher risk of developing an infection may be given anti-viral medication to shorten the length of illness and quicker symptom relief. 

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