Chickenpox is the common name for Varicella simplex, a disease that mainly affects children. Until recently, chickenpox manifested itself so frequently as a disease, that it came to be recognized almost as a rite of passage for childhood.
Parents knew the first symptom: the red itchy rashes that would spread across the back, the chest, and the scalp; the smaller signs of sickness: the fever, the loss of appetites and finally the scars it would leave behind. Most parents raised their children, accepting chickenpox as a fact of life.
The year 1995 saw the development of a chickenpox vaccine, which turned out to be a safe, effective way to prevent chickenpox and its possible complications. Even in cases where the vaccine does not stop the disease’s progress completely, the surviving infections are known to be much milder than those of the past.
Chickenpox is believed to have been named after chick peas. The specks that appear after the contagion make the skin look as though chickens have pecked it.
There is usually a 10-14 day incubation period before symptoms can be noticed. The disease is highly contagious and spreads by air.
Chickenpox starts off with a few red spots or bumps (often mistaken for insect bites). The appearance of fever is common. The signs then proceed from bumps to blisters and on day 4 the original blisters will start to crust over. By the end of the week, most or all of the blisters will be crusted over. The fever is known to last for 5 days.
Doctors are known to prescribe an antihistamine to relieve itching but other than that, chickenpox requires no medical treatment in healthy children and should simply be allowed to run its course. Parents should be wary of any treatments involving aspirin, due to the risk of developing Reye’s syndrome.
In case of complications (such as pneumonia and encephalitis) or exacerbation of symptoms, parents are advised to seek their doctor’s attention. However, serious illnesses are more common in older children and adults.