It’s likely your child will contract chicken pox at some point during his childhood, especially as he enters preschool or nursery programs and begins interacting with other children. Learning how to recognize the signs and symptoms and helping him recover from the ailments will help protect both his health and his comfort level.
The Signs and Symptoms
Chicken pox, a common virus called Varicella, often begins with a few red spots or bumps that resemble and can be mistaken for insect bites, states Dr. Williams Sears, pediatrician and founder of Ask Dr. Sears. Fever is also a common symptom.
According to Dr. Sears, children with chicken pox may exhibit the following:
- Day 1: A few red spots or bumps are noticeable
- Day 2: More bumps will appear and the first bumps will have turned into blisters
- Day 3: More new bumps will appear and the second-day bumps will start to blister
- Day 4: The original blisters will start to crust over
- Day 5: At this point, no new bumps should appear but more blisters will crust over
By day 7, all of the blisters will crust over and the fever should subside. The total of number spots is 200 on average, according to Sears.
It may be difficult to determine how your child contracted chicken pox, but the health experts at Nemours KidsHealth say the virus can spread through the air by coughing and sneezing and with direct contact from mucus, saliva or fluid from blisters.
Even before your child develops red spots or bumps, he is contagious. Chicken pox is contagious two days before a rash or bumps even appear and until all blisters have dried, which typically takes a week, according to the experts at Nemours.
Although it may be difficult to diagnose your child with chicken pox during the first few days, it is a good idea to quarantine him until you have a diagnosis from his pediatrician.
While Dr. Sears believes a visit to the pediatrician is not always necessary, he does recommend a trip to the doctor in the following cases:
- You are not sure about the diagnosis after two or three days have passed.
- An infant 2 months or younger catches chickenpox.
- Your child has a weakened immune system, such as from an immune disorder or from taking steroid medication.
- Your child has a fever for more than five days.
- Your child develops a moderate to severe cough.
- Severe headaches develop, even when fever is controlled (high fever can cause headaches, which is not worrisome).
- Significant dizziness (spinning feeling) occurs.
- Severe headaches with vomiting and stiff, painful back of the neck or spine occur.
- Any spots become infected, with redness spreading outward from the spot and puss draining out.
- Your child has spots on the upper or lower eyelids, or has red, painful eyes.
When your child has contracted chicken pox, it is only possible to treat the symptoms and make him as comfortable as possible. Itching is one of the most prominent side effects of this ailment, so your child, especially at the toddler age, may have difficulty resisting the urge to itch the pox.
Dr. Sears recommends treating the itching with the following:
- Cut the fingernails
- Benadryl (an over-the-counter antihistamine) is very effective in decreasing the itching. Use it as needed. Click on Benadryl for dosing.
- Oatmeal baths: Aveeno or other brands can be purchased at the store. This can soothe the itching.
- Cool washcloths may help.
Keeping your little one occupied can also distract him from the itching. Get creative with games, coloring books and art projects that will keep him entertained yet comfortable while recovering from the chicken pox.
If your child is suffering from a fever, he may feel comforted by stories or a book. According to Dr. Sears, parents or nannies can use Tylenol or ibuprofen to treat the fever, but it is imperative that you avoid treating with aspirin during a chicken pox infection. If your child’s fever is below 101 and he is feeling comfortable, it may not be necessary to even treat the fever as his immune system fights off the infection.