The best way to protect children from chickenpox is to make sure they are immunized against this illness.
Chickenpox is a virus that spreads very easily. A child will show signs of chickenpox within 10 to 21 days of being exposed. It is contagious from 36 hours before the rash appears until all of the sores that develop have scabbed over (usually seven to 10 days).
A rash is the most typical symptom of chickenpox. Small red dots first appear on the scalp and then spread to the rest of the body. The dots quickly become raised and the centers fill with a clear fluid. As the fluid becomes cloudy, the sores will break open and become very itchy. Finally, scabs will form and fall off in one or two weeks. The child also may have a mild fever and complain of tiredness before the rash develops.
If your child develops chickenpox:
- Give your child acetaminophen (Tylenol or Panadol). Do not give your child aspirin because it has been associated with Reye's syndrome, a rare but serious illness.
- Keep your child in the house and away from other children until all of the sores have developed scabs.
- Encourage your child not to scratch.
- Cut fingernails short to minimize damage and scarring that occurs when your child scratches the rash. Also, keep the child's hands clean to prevent infecting the rash.
- Cleanse the skin regularly and gently with soap and water.
- Apply calamine lotion to the rash to help minimize itching.
- Allow the child to soak for 15 minutes in a warm bath with one half cup of oatmeal to control itching. Do not rinse the skin after the bath. Gently pat the skin dry.
- Rinse the child's mouth with salt water (one half teaspoon salt to one cup of water) if sores develop in the mouth.
Call your doctor immediately if your child:
- Has extreme itching that cannot be controlled with the steps listed above.
- Develops infected sores.
- Is very sleepy or has difficulty walking.
- Complains of neck pain or a stiff neck.