I have three children who have all had chickenpox one after the other, so we had about 7 weeks of chickenpox in total! My children were 3, 3 months and 5 when they got it. The 3 year old was first, actually it was just before her third birthday, she was just about over it when she had her birthday party; a couple of her friends had to pull out because they had it! Then two weeks to the day my baby got it. He was three months old at the time, I was horrified and hoped it would be OK. It turns out he was the least affected, had a few spots and he was barely ill. The only bad part with him was that we couldn’t take him to a family wedding and I had to leave him with my Mum. It transpired that it’s true what they say, it gets worse with age. My 5 year old boy was the worst, as he knew exactly what was going on. He had so many spots and was miserable for a long time. He has also got a few scars from it. He was self conscious going swimming for a long time. I’ve put together a survival kit for parents who are going through their child or children with chickenpox, I hope you find it useful.
Chickenpox is an extremely common and highly contagious virus, which most children will catch at some point. It is thought that almost all children will get chickenpox before the age of ten.[i] Caused by the highly contagious virus, varicella-zoster, chickenpox results in a number of symptoms including an itchy rash, spots and fluid filled blisters that can be very uncomfortable.
Whilst chickenpox is distressing for children who have the virus, it can also affect the whole family as the sleepless nights and irritating symptoms take over. I’ve included a little pick me up for parents too.
What to expect with chickenpox
I see so many posts on forums and Facebook with pictures of spots or rashes asking if it is chickenpox, or how to diagnose it. Whereas you can never diagnose a rash over the internet, it’s always best to get it checked out by your GP if you’re not sure, I can tell you my experience of what happened with my children. With my daughter, I knew it was going around her nursery, but I wasn’t sure at first. She said she was sore in her vagina, I looked and there was a couple of red spots on her inner thighs and then when I opened her legs there was quite a few around her vulva which looked yellow and sore. I made an appointment straight away as this wasn’t what I expected! When she was in the GP waiting room, I saw spots appearing on her back, literally as we were sitting there. I then felt a bit silly for taking her there, where they confirmed chickenpox, but gave us antibiotics in case the ones on her vulva where infected. She suffered no ill effects. She went on to feel unwell for a day or so, but on the whole she remained her happy self. Her best friend from nursery got it at the same time and they played happily together, we called them the spot twins.
When the baby got it, he got one big spot on his lower back in the middle. Children will often get one ‘king’ spot, which is usually the biggest and worst spot, and has the most potential to scar. They start off as a red spot, or can look like a little scratch. They then progress to little blisters like burn blisters with red around them. Then they scab over. Once they’ve scabbed over, or formed a crust, they are no longer infectious and you can venture out, although you will get some funny looks. Daniel had about six spots in total, but this original starter spot has left him with a round white scar.
My 5 year old had one king spot on the side of his head, the next day he had a few spots and was still happy. I thought we had got away with it quite peacefully, but he soon became very miserable with it. He had so many spots, he was covered. He needed lots of oat baths, painkillers and creams and was still ill with it. He has a few scars from it. Once they’d all had it, I felt like I’d gone through a parenting rite of passage, and I needed a medal or badge of honour. I’m still waiting. Here’s my survival guide:
1. Oat baths
A lukewarm bath will help soothe itchy skin, if you add a simple oat bag by using some whole oats (not instant or flavoured), approximately 100g poured into a muslin or the leg of some old tights it makes for a soothing solution. Every night before bed when the itching is at it’s height is best. When you’re drying them, pat the body dry instead of rubbing.
2. Pain Relief
Your child may get a fever as one of the first symptoms of chickenpox, but there’s no need to immediately rush for the calpol (children’s paracetamol). Children’s paracetamol can be used to relieve the pain from scratching and irritation from the spots. If your child is very irritable and is having problems sleeping due to the spots, giving them regular pain relief can help. Make sure you read the instructions carefully. It is not recommended to use children’s Ibuprofen during chickenpox outbreaks, due to the small risk of developing necrotising fasciitis. You must not give aspirin to children suffering from chickenpox.
Virasoothe is a specific clear gel made for use during a chickenpox outbreak. You can get it as a gel or as a gel spray. Persistent scratching of the spots can not only lead to scarring but broken skin which leaves them open to skin infections. Care ViraSoothe helps cool and soothe the unpleasant symptoms whilst helping to reduce scarring. It works by helping to cool the skin and relieve the persistent itching, which aids in reducing the desire to scratch the skin. It cannot fight the virus, it will still run its course, but doctors are advising this more than other remedies such as calamine lotion. You can easily apply it all over the body and face and it is suitable for children over 6 months of age. For more information on the product and chickenpox, click here.
If they are scratching a lot, particularly in their sleep, consider using gloves or cotton socks over their hands. Make sure their fingernails and toenails are kept short and snag free.
5. Ice cream, Ice lollies
This applies to all childhood illnesses including grumpiness, but kids can get the spots anywhere, including in their mouth which is super painful. Sucking on an ice lolly can help ease the pain and also keeps them hydrated. Babies on breastmilk or formula milk can have their milk frozen as a lolly and given that way. Here’s me with Phoebe at the beginning of her chickenpox, I’d taken refuge at Granny’s and she dished out the ice cream and tea for me. Daniel was a clingy baby in the sling, I felt quite overwhelmed despite the smile. I also felt very motherly.
Speak to your pharmacist or GP about using antihistamines to prevent the itching if they are scratching a lot.
7. Loose, comfortable clothing in soft Fabrics
Choose loose clothes made of cotton or jersey. Try keeping a towel in the fridge and using it to wrap their legs up.
8. Self care
Remember to look after yourself! Take turns being the main carer, get help from whoever offers and have play dates from anyone else infected. Keep calm with Rescue remedy, aromatherapy sticks or burners, wine, chocolate, whatever works. Taking time out where you can will help you be a better carer for your children.
Points to remember about chickenpox:
- If you are pregnant and have not had chickenpox, you will need to have your immunity checked, which can be done via a blood test. If you contract chickenpox during pregnancy, you will need to seek treatment, although the chances of complications are rare.
- You cannot catch shingles from someone with chickenpox, although you can catch chickenpox from someone with shingles (If you haven’t had it before).
- There is a chickenpox vaccine available privately, costing around £150 which is advised if there is a risk of harming someone with a weakened immune system
I hope you’ve found this guide helpful, let me know if you have any questions or comments. If your child has chickenpox you have my sympathy, breathe, drink wine when they’re asleep and remember it will pass and then you never have to do it again! Have a medal from me.
Disclosure: I was compensated for my time to write this post, however all views are my own.