Chickenpox or varicella are a common childhood disease. This viral disease is usually transmitted by droplet infection. Typical are above all the conspicuous skin rash.
What is chickenpox?
Chickenpox, also known as wet leaves or sheep leaves, is a viral infection that is known to be a typical childhood disease with a high risk of infection. Sufferers usually have a fever and an itchy rash that is characteristic of the disease. After a single outbreak of chickenpox, most people are immune to it for the rest of their lives. For definitions of bernard soulier syndrome, please visit topbbacolleges.com.
In children, the disease usually runs its course without complications and is over after three to five days. In adults, chickenpox tends to be more severe and lasts much longer. It can also lead to more serious complications such as pneumonia or meningitis. Infection with chickenpox should be avoided especially in pregnant women because of the increased risk for mother and child.
Chickenpox is caused by the Varicella-zoester virus, which is why the disease is also known as Varicella. The virus, which belongs to the herpesvirus family, is transmitted exclusively from person to person.
In addition to direct contact with the varicella vesicles (“chickenpox”) that occur during the course of the disease, transmission is also possible through expiratory droplets or even through the air, since the pathogens are also capable of surviving outside the human body for a short time.
Chickenpox is contagious two days before the rash appears and remains contagious for about a week after the skin irritation first appears. The risk of infection is up to 90% for people who are in the presence of people with chickenpox for more than an hour.
Symptoms, Ailments & Signs
In the case of chickenpox, only non-specific signs are initially recognizable. General symptoms of the disease such as fever and fatigue appear. As a result, there are characteristic symptoms. A typical skin rash appears, which becomes visible all over the body. Numerous red spots form, from which blisters develop.
These contain a clear liquid. A strong, unpleasant itching occurs . After a day or two, the blisters will crust over. Over a period of about five days, new papules can appear again and again. Spread over the entire skin, new and already encrusted blisters mix. These usually appear first on the face and trunk.
The rash then spreads to the arms and legs. Even the genitals, oral mucosa and scalp are affected. The number of vesicles can vary significantly among sufferers. Chickenpox symptoms can be more severe in adults than in children.
In severe cases, if the course is complicated, the affected person can experience additional symptoms such as stiff neck, unsteady gait or shortness of breath. In addition, a pregnant patient with chickenpox can cause malformations in the unborn child. Scarring can occur in the area where the blisters form after the disease has subsided if the blisters were scratched open by the itching.
course of the disease
Since the disease is much more severe in adults, parents often try to infect their children with the virus at a young age in so-called chickenpox parties.
It can take 10 to 21 days after infection for chickenpox to break out. In most cases, the disease begins in children with a slight fever, sometimes with headaches and body aches. Within 24 hours, small red itching pustules form in the chest and head area, in which water-clear blisters often form. The mucous membranes are rarely affected by this pustular formation. When the blisters burst, a brown scab forms that soon falls off without scarring if care is taken not to scratch the child too much.
Adults show more cases of chickenpox, which can also affect the limbs and genital area. Recurring pustules are often accompanied by a high fever. In pregnant women, infection with chickenpox can also lead to miscarriage.
Chickenpox is a disease that usually occurs in children and usually heals without complications. Only in very rare cases can serious illnesses occur. This is especially true for newborns, people with a weakened immune system or pregnant women. Occasionally, however, complicated courses also occur in otherwise healthy children. These are then caused by a superinfection with bacteria.
If those affected constantly scratch the itchy blisters, there is a risk of additional bacterial infection in these areas. This risk can be reduced by staying in a cool environment and by administering antipruritic medication. In newborns and immunocompromised people, however, the actual chickenpox pathogen (varicella-zoster virus) can spread more widely in the body and attack various organs.
Among other things, this leads to life-threatening pneumonia caused by varicella zoster. The varicella can also affect the nervous system with the formation of encephalitis. The heart, kidneys, cornea or joints are sometimes also affected. Furthermore, there is a so-called fetal varicella syndrome in the unborn child.
This can develop if the mother gets chickenpox in the first six weeks of pregnancy. Fetal varicella syndrome is characterized by malformations of the skeleton and nervous system, eye damage and skin changes. If the mother catches chickenpox around term, the baby may contract it and develop a very severe neonatal varicella infection.
When should you go to the doctor?
Chickenpox is a disease that should always be seen by a doctor. Since the disease in childhood is less dangerous, an appointment can be made for affected children. Immediate treatment is recommended for the child due to the accompanying symptoms, but is not vital.
In adult patients and adolescents, however, the situation is different. Those affected should contact a doctor immediately, as chickenpox can even be life-threatening in this age group. It makes sense to consult a doctor at the early signs. As soon as the first rashes or a feverish feeling appear, patients should undergo a medical evaluation. It is particularly important that patients who think they have chickenpox call the practice in advance. Because the disease is highly contagious, it takes time for practices to take steps to prevent other patients from becoming infected. It is also advisable for affected children to discuss the doctor’s visit with the pediatrician beforehand .
Treatment & Therapy
Because chickenpox is a viral disease, only the symptoms are treated when possible. The itching can be relieved with cool, damp compresses or drying emulsions. To reduce the risk of further infection and scarring, children should have their fingernails clipped to prevent them from scratching the pustules. Existing fever can be treated with antipyretics. Aspirin must not be given, however, as it increases the risk of severe Reye’s syndrome in the event of chickenpox.
Immunocompromised people should be given the antiviral drugs aciclovir or vidarabine. Furthermore, adults suffering from chickenpox should be particularly alert to symptoms of meningitis (pain when nodding and lowering the head), pneumonia ( difficulty breathing or sputum production ) or gastrointestinal complications (severe abdominal pain, bloating ).
Chickenpox usually runs its course without complications and does not require immediate follow-up care. The fluid-filled blisters dry up and become crusted. It’s important not to scratch the scab, otherwise bacterial skin infections may occur. After 3-5 days, the crust falls off without scarring.
Anyone who has survived chickenpox has lifelong immunity. In rare cases, when the first illness appeared in early childhood or only mildly, a second illness can occur.
For long-term aftercare, it must be noted that the varicello-zoster virus remains in the body throughout life. They survive in an inactive state in nerve fibers. After years or decades, the viruses can be activated again and overcome the body’s own defences. As a result, shingles (herpes zoster) is triggered as a secondary disease.
One in five people who have had chickenpox infection will later get shingles at least once. People with a weakened immune system are particularly affected. This includes older people, since the function of the immune system decreases with increasing age. It is therefore primarily these risk groups that should pay attention to the occurrence of typical symptoms of shingles (skin rashes, nerve pain).
At the first suspicion of a disease, antiviral drugs should be administered. Vaccination is also available to prevent shingles. The vaccines are approved for people over the age of 50.
You can do that yourself
The disease is highly contagious. Those affected should therefore stay at home until all the blisters have crusted over. The chickenpox is only then no longer transmissible. This usually takes about a week.
Adult relatives who have already contracted chickenpox in childhood are in most cases immune to reinfection. You therefore do not need to take any special measures. However, since the disease can take an aggressive course in adults, it is advisable to evacuate relatives for the duration of the infection if they did not have chickenpox as a child. This is particularly advisable for older people, pregnant women and relatives with an immune deficiency. No spatial separation is necessary from children living in the household. The disease is usually mild in them. Nevertheless, direct contact with the person concerned should be avoided.
An important self-help measure is to refrain from scratching the blisters. Otherwise infections with bacteria can develop. Ideally, those affected should wear light cotton clothing, as this does not irritate the skin further. The itching can be relieved by washing the whole body with apple cider vinegar water. In addition, the intake of folic acid and iron supplements is recommended.