Caring For A Child With Chicken Pox

If your child is experiencing a headache, sore throat, or fever, it could be the chickenpox virus. Blisters usually appear 10 to 21 days after exposure. Learn about the early signs of chickenpox in a child and effective treatment.

By URLife Team
07 Jun 2024

Chickenpox is a very highly contagious viral infection that kids can get. It makes them itchy, tired, and gives them a fever. It is most common in kids under 10, especially during winter and spring. Chickenpox is caused by the Varicella Zoster virus and spreads easily through droplets from an infected child's nose and mouth, and by touching things the infected child has touched. Knowing the signs, symptoms, and treatment options is very important to help your child feel better quickly. It's good to be ready and know about chickenpox so you can help your child feel better.


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What Are the Symptoms of Chickenpox?

This common childhood illness can quickly turn a playful day into a challenging one. Understanding the signs, symptoms, and treatment options is crucial for managing your child's comfort and ensuring a swift recovery. Whether it's their first bout or a recurrence, being prepared and informed will help you navigate this bumpy journey with confidence. By knowing these signs and symptoms, you can better care for your child and help them through this uncomfortable but manageable illness. Children with chickenpox may experience the following symptoms:

  • Fever: Often starts before the rash appears.
  • Itchy rashes: Fluid-filled blisters can appear all over the body, most notably on the stomach, chest, face, scalp, behind the ears, arms, and legs. The blisters dry out and crust over after 2-3 days.
  • Reduced activity and appetite: Your child may feel less energetic and not as hungry.
  • General malaise: They may feel unwell or have achy arms and legs.

If your baby or child has chickenpox, they will develop an itchy, red rash. It usually starts with a few spots on the neck or torso. Within hours, more spots appear in clusters, known as "crops." Over the next few days, the rash spreads and can cover most of the body. The spots turn into fluid-filled blisters, which eventually pop and form a crusty surface. The rash will have patches in different stages: fresh red spots, fluid-filled blisters, and brown, crusty areas.


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How does Chickenpox Spread?

An infected child is contagious 1 to 2 days before the rash appears and remains infectious until all blisters have scabbed over, which takes about 5 to 10 days. Understanding these stages and how the virus spreads can help you manage and prevent the spread of chickenpox effectively. Chickenpox is highly contagious and spreads quickly in places like childcare facilities, playgrounds, and homes. The virus spreads in two ways:

  • Droplets: Through contact with sneeze and cough droplets from an infected person.
  • Blisters: Another way is with fluid from an infected person’s chickenpox blisters.


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How To Treat Chickenpox in Children

First thing first. When your child has chickenpox, they must stay home from school or childcare until all their blisters have dried and crusted over. This usually takes about 5 to 10 days from when the rash first appears. Keeping your child at home minimises the risk of spreading the virus to other children and adults who may not be immune.

If a pregnant woman contracts chickenpox, there is a risk of complications such as pneumonia for the mother and congenital varicella syndrome for the baby, which can lead to birth defects. Therefore, it’s critical to keep an infected child away from pregnant women. If a pregnant woman in your household or community has been exposed, she should contact her healthcare provider immediately.

1. Promote Hand Hygiene: Good hand hygiene is one of the most effective ways to prevent the spread of infections, including chickenpox. Teach older children the importance of washing their hands thoroughly, especially before eating and after using the bathroom. 

  • Ensure all family members wash their hands regularly with soap and water, especially after touching the child or their belongings.
  • When soap and water aren’t available, use an alcohol-based hand sanitiser.

2. Encourage Respiratory Etiquette: Teach your child to cover their mouth and nose with a tissue or their elbow when they sneeze or cough. This practice helps prevent the virus from becoming airborne. Make sure they:

  • Use tissues: Always use tissues to cover sneezes and coughs.
  • Dispose of tissues properly: Place used tissues directly into the trash bin to avoid contamination.
  • Wash hands after sneezing or coughing: Clean their hands immediately after sneezing or coughing.

3. Avoid Sharing Personal Items: To prevent the spread of chickenpox, your child mustn’t share personal items with others. This includes:

  • Food and Drinks: Avoid sharing food, drinking cups, or utensils, as the virus can be spread through saliva.
  • Toys: Keep your child’s toys separate from those of other children, as the virus can survive on surfaces for a short time.
  • Personal Items: Items such as towels, clothing, and bedding should not be shared and should be washed frequently.


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Steps of Prevention

  • Ensure your child drinks plenty of fluids to stay hydrated. This helps their body fight the infection and reduces the risk of dehydration, especially if they have a fever.
  • Use paracetamol to help keep your child comfortable and reduce fever. Avoid giving them aspirin, as it can cause serious complications in children with chickenpox.
  • Keep your child cool by dressing them in lightweight clothing and avoiding over-bundling.
  • To avoid future scarring, it’s important to prevent your child from scratching the spots. Trim your child’s nails and keep them clean to minimise the damage if they do scratch.
  • Putting socks over your child’s hands while they sleep can help prevent them from scratching unconsciously.
  • Calamine lotion or cooling gels are available from pharmacies and can provide a soothing, cooling effect on itchy spots. They are safe to use and can help reduce discomfort

Caring for a child with chickenpox can be challenging, but with the right approach, you can help them feel more comfortable and speed up their recovery. However, there is always a chance of complications. If your child has breathing difficulties, is drowsy, or has a very high fever that won’t drop, consult a general physician with UR.Life for advice. Immediate medical attention is also necessary if your child with chickenpox is younger than two months old. 


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