Chickenpox is a highly contagious disease caused by a herpes virus called Varicella Zoster Virus (VZV). Anyone can get chickenpox. However, it is more common in children. Chickenpox can be serious, especially in babies, adults, and people with weakened immune systems.
Chickenpox can also give rise to more severe problems in pregnant women. If a pregnant woman gets chickenpox it may result in stillbirths or birth defects, and the disease can spread to their babies during childbirth.
Typical symptoms that may appear 1 to 2 days before the rash include high fever, tiredness, headache and loss of appetite. The classic chickenpox symptom is a rash that turns into itchy blisters. This rash/spots may leave scars when scratched. The rash may start on the face, chest, and back. It can then spread to the rest of the body, including inside the mouth, eyelids or genital area. It usually takes about 1 week for all the blisters to become scabs.
Chickenpox is highly contagious. It can spread in the air through coughing and sneezing, or even by touching chickenpox blisters. An infected person can spread the disease from 1 to 2 days before the rash appears until about 1 week later when all the spots are dried.
Chickenpox commonly causes an illness that lasts about 5-10 days. Your child may miss 5 to 6 days of school or childcare due to chickenpox.
In Singapore, nearly 2/3 of pre-school children, 39.5% of primary school children and 29% of adolescents (13-17 years old) are susceptible to varicella (chickenpox) infection.
Chickenpox is harmless to most people. However, those with impaired immune systems may experience serious complications, or even death.
Possible complications of chickenpox include:
Chickenpox spots are itchy and may leave scars when scratched. Up to 18.7% children may get chickenpox scars. These scars can be found most often on the abdomen, face and back.
When a child falls sick due to varicella (chickenpox), the following may impact the parent:
Anyone can get chickenpox. Chickenpox can be prevented through vaccination.
Treatment is directed at reducing the itch and discomfort of the rash. There are also anti-virals prescribed by the doctor to reduce the severity and duration of chickenpox. Anti-virals are usually most effective when taken within the first 24 hours of illness. However, most children do not need them.