Chickenpox is highly contagious and is caused by a virus. This virus spreads as droplets containing the virus are released while talking or coughing. You will also have the tendency to scratch with chickenpox. Scratching creates flaky skin under your nails which also contain the virus. You can also infect other people if you then touch an object or someone else. The other person will then have the first symptoms after 13 to 18 days.
Most people get chickenpox when they’re children. If you’ve already had chickenpox, the virus will remain in your body, but it usually won’t be active. You can get shingles if the virus becomes active again at a later age.
The initial chickenpox symptoms are usually:
- A fever.
- A listless feeling.
- Cold complaints.
After one or two days, you or your child may experience:
- Red moist bumps on the trunk and/or on the head. These soon spread all over the body.
- Severe itching.
- Brown crusts on the bumps. The bumps dry up within ten days, which will then result in these scabs. This also reduces the itching.
Chickenpox can cause serious symptoms in some very rare cases. An example of this is meningitis.
If you or your child has chickenpox, it’s advisable:
- Not to scratch. This can cause scarring and easily spread the virus.
- To take good care of your or your child’s nails. To regularly clean them and cut them to the right length. This prevents flaky skin from getting under the nails. This will help prevent the further spread of the virus.
- Notify the school or daycare centre about the chickenpox. You need to be aware that the virus will already be contagious two days before any blisters or bumps appear. So you don’t need to keep your child at home to prevent infection. However, it’s always a good idea to enter into agreements about this with the school or daycare centre.
- Inform the travel organisation or airline if you, or your child, are due to travel.
- Keep clothing and belongings separate as much as possible. Especially after clothes have been worn or items have been used.
There are also a number of things you can do to reduce the symptoms. For example, you or child could:
- Eat or drink something cold if you or your child have painful blisters in the mouth.
- Apply some menthol gel, carbomer water gel or zinc lotion to the bumps, spots and blisters. This reduces the itching and will result in the blisters drying up faster. All of these products are available from your pharmacy. You can also buy menthol gel and zinc lotion from the chemist. Obtain advice about the use of the products or carefully read the package leaflet.
In most cases you won’t need to contact your GP for chickenpox. However, we do recommend you contact your GP in the following situations:
- You’re not sure if you or your child has chickenpox.
- You, or your child, start to feel increasingly unwell. For example, you or your child may vomit, develop grey skin, develop a fever again, feel drowsy or can hardly drink anything anymore.
- Your child is three months old or younger.