Chicken Pox – Causes, Symptoms, Treatment and Prevention

Chicken Pox – Causes, Symptoms, Treatment and Prevention

Chicken Pox is a highly contagious disease of mainly children aged about 5-10 years caused by ‘Varicella Zoster Virus’ (VZV).Some times the disease is also seen in adults who are not having immunity. In children the disease is usually mild. But in adults the disease appears in a virulent form with vesicles spreading almost all parts of the body. Infection spreads through direct contact from person to person. It can also spread through inhalation of the virus droplets coming out with cough and sneezing by the patient. The Incubation period is about 12- 14 days. The disease occurs throughout the year bust most commonly seen from January to May.

Symptoms and course of the disease:
Soon after the incubation period is over the disease starts with fever lasting for 3-4 days with a temperature ranging from 1000F- 1040F depending on the severity.

Sore throat, cough and general malaise, vomiting and headache are also present.

Within 3-4 days papules or vesicles appear on the body. The vesicles appear on the back, abdomen, chest, hands, feet and face. The vesicles are filled with fluid highly infectious and concentrated with virus. The patient feels discomfort with itching and burning sensation. The vesicles last for 3-4 days and starts regressing with scabbing. Care should be taken if the vesicles appear near the eyes to prevent eye infection. Secondary infections sometimes cause complications. Occasionally the vesicles may appear in the mouth and on the genital parts. Sometimes the disease may lead into complications like pneumonia, skin infections and neurological disorders like encephalitis are seen. The disease runs for about 10-14 days from the onset to complete recovery. Once infected the patient develops a life long immunity.

Treatment and general precautions:
Since Chicken Pox is highly contagious especially to children. Therefore avoid contact by other persons in the house. Keep the infected patient in isolation and keep the surrounding areas clean.

During the early stage controlling of fever is essential. Antipyretics like acetaminophen can be given. In addition cold compresses on the fore head, palms and feet can be given. When the temperature is high of more than 1040F take medical advice. High temperatures especially in children should be taken care to prevent further complications. Aspirin and ibuprofen are not advisable and should not be given.

Secondary bacterial infections should be controlled with proper antibiotics under medical advice.
Topical dressings like cold baths containing baking soda reduce the itching sensation and soothe the patient.
Gargling with salt water helps when there are vesicles in the mouth.

Scratching should be avoided. Cut the finger nails to prevent damage to the vesicles and skin infections.
When the vesicles develop near the eyes instill antibiotic eye drops to prevent infection of the eyes.
Anti viral drugs can be given in immunosuppressant patients from the beginning till the vesicles disappear.

Home remedies for Chicken Pox:

    * To prevent formation of scars smear pure honey on the scabs.
    * After the scab formation and recovery of the patient apply a paste made by Neem leaves, turmeric and vegetable oil. This cures the scabs quickly and prevents spread of the virus.
    * Carrot and coriander soup can be given to increase the resistance of the body.
    * Herbal teas made with Tulsi leaves, Cinnamon (Dalchini), honey and lemon can be given.

Prevention of Chicken Pox:
Since Chicken Pox is highly contagious necessary measures should be taken to prevent the spread of the disease. Keep the patient in isolation and avoid contact with other children in the house. Keep the surroundings clean and dispose off all the materials used by the patient and replace the bed sheets and other apparel periodically and wash them.

Chicken Pox although is not a serious disease but due to occasional complications vaccination is advised for children between 12-18 months. Older children who do not possess immunity can also be vaccinated. Vaccine provides immunity towards a severe attack of chickenpox and protects up to 85% against the disease. In spite there is an advantage the vaccine has not become popular due to the fact that the disease is milder in children and an actual attack gives a life long immunity when compared to the vaccine. Moreover the cost of the vaccine is also high. Therefore the World Health Organization has not recommended in the vaccination programme of developing countries. Article by Dr.G.B.Haranath