Chickenpox is a very contagious skin infection caused by the varicella-zoster virus.
Ten to twenty days after varicella-zoster virus infection, the person develops an itchy rash with multiple red, blister-like bumps filled with clear fluid. This is most common in children younger than 10 years old, but older children and adults can also get infected. In comparison to younger children, older children and adults with chickenpox infection have a more widespread rash, longer fever, and a more severe illness overall. Chickenpox spreads through the cough or sneeze of an infected person, or by direct contact with the fluid from the open blisters. The earliest sign of chickenpox is tiredness and a fever. Within one to two days, the rash appears in the form of small dots on the face, then spreads gradually to the scalp, torso, arms, and legs. Occasionally, mouth sores may develop. The bumps then dry up and form scabs within 7-14 days. In most cases the rash resolves without a trace, but scars may be left behind. Those who have been infected with chickenpox are at risk of getting shingles later in life.
Chickenpox is caued by an infection with the varicella-zoster virus. Most individuals who get chickenpox are healthy. However, people with a weakened immune function have a higher chance of being infected.
Chickenpox should be diagnosed and treated by a doctor, who may use any of the medications listed below alone or in combination. Typically, rest and fluid intake are important in allowing the body to overcome the virus in young children. In older adolescents and adults, the infection can be more severe and may require more aggressive treatment.
Pregnant women should be especially careful around those with chickenpox as an infection during pregnancy can affect the health of the developing fetus.
Medications used to treat chickenpox include:
- Oral antiviral medications, such as acyclovir and valacyclovir
- Topical steroids and other anti-itch creams, as well as oral antihistamines for itching
- Over the counter fever-reducing medications