Chickenpox is a mild and common childhood illness that most children catch at some point. Chickenpox causes a rash of red, itchy spots that turn into fluid-filled blisters. They then crust over to form scabs, which eventually drop off.
Some children have only a few spots, but other children can have spots that cover their entire body. These are most likely to appear on the face, ears and scalp, under the arms, on the chest and belly, and on the arms and legs.
Chickenpox (known medically as varicella) is caused by a virus called the varicella-zoster virus. It's spread quickly and easily from someone who is infected.
Chickenpox is most common in children under the age of 10. In fact, chickenpox is so common in childhood that over 90% of adults are immune to the condition because they've had it before. Children usually catch chickenpox in winter and spring, particularly between March and May.
What to do
To prevent spreading the infection, keep children off nursery or school until all their spots have crusted over.
Chickenpox is infectious from one to two days before the rash starts, until all the blisters have crusted over (usually five to six days after the start of the rash).
If your child has chickenpox, try to keep them away from public areas to avoid contact with people who may not have had it, especially people who are at risk of serious problems, such as newborn babies, pregnant women and anyone with a weakened immune system (for example, people having cancer treatment or taking steroid tablets).
Chickenpox in children is considered a mild illness, but your child will probably feel pretty miserable and irritable while they have it. Your child may have a fever for the first few days of the illness. The spots can be incredibly itchy.
There is no specific treatment for chickenpox, but there are pharmacy remedies that can alleviate symptoms. These include paracetamol to relieve fever, and calamine lotion and cooling gels to ease itching.
In most children, the blisters crust up and fall off naturally within one to two weeks.
When to see a doctor
For most children, chickenpox is a mild illness that gets better on its own. However, some children can become more seriously ill with chickenpox and need to see a doctor. Contact your GP straight away if your child develops any abnormal symptoms, such as:
· if the blisters on their skin become infected
· if your child has a pain in their chest or has difficulty breathing
Chickenpox in adults
Chickenpox may be a childhood illness, but adults can get it too. Chickenpox tends to be more severe in adults than children, and adults have a higher risk of developing complications.
Adults with chickenpox should stay off work until all the spots have crusted over. They should seek medical advice if they develop any abnormal symptoms, such as infected blisters.
Information taken from NHS Choices.