My son has chickenpox – What now?

Constança came to the Pharmacy and brought her daughter Mimi. She was worried that in the morning while she was dressing her she noticed a few bumps scattered around her torso. They looked very different from the ones she had when she was stung by a mosquito or those that appear when she eats chocolate, a food to which she is allergic.

She asked me to take a look at the pimples. We went into the office and found that they were small bubbles filled with clear liquid that not only limited themselves to the torso but also spread to the scalp. I also noticed some small red spots that, I suspected, were to become new bubbles in a short time.

By their aspect, it looked like chickenpox.

These vesicles or “pimples” may also reach the mouth and throat, the face, ears and genitals. But in Mimi’s, case they seemed to be limited to the torso and scalp.

Chickenpox is a childhood infection caused by the Varicella-zoster virus. It is more frequent in the winter and spring, affecting mainly children up to 12 years old.

“Chickenpox!” Exclaimed Constança. “A little friend from Mimi’s room was at home with chickenpox, but it was two weeks ago”, she remembered as soon as she heard the word.

Chickenpox is highly contagious, spreading easily among siblings or among schoolmates through saliva when the child coughs, talks or sneezes, and through direct contact with the vesicles on the skin.

Once infected, a child takes 10 to 21 days to develop the symptoms, but becomes potentially contagious two days before they appear, i.e., even though Mimi’s colleague stayed at home, she had transmitted the virus before. This contagious state lasts until all the vesicles are dry and healed, which usually takes about a week.

I asked Constança about other symptoms that are also often associated with chickenpox, such as mild fever, headaches, poor appetite, general low feeling and stomach ache, and Mimi nodded her head as I listed them.

“And now, what I do?”

First: Isolating and treating the sick child is the best way to avoid contagion.

Second: Avoid scratching the blisters because you can puncture them or remove the scabs too early thus opening a wound, an ideal place for opportunistic bacteria to settle (keep nails short).

Third: The treatment is done according to the symptoms that the patient presents.

In the case of Mimi, to decrease the itching and avoid blisters infection, it was advised to add a product with a soothing action (containing starch or oats) and antiseptic (with chlorhexidine) in the warm water bath. After bathing, it is recommended to apply products with calamine (or zinc oxide) in spots and blisters, avoiding touching the eyes.

If lesions extend to the mouth and throat soft or liquid foods and cold food (soups, yogurts, potatoes) should be given, avoiding all acidic or salty foods.

If Mimi has pain or fever, she can take an antipyretic analgesic such as paracetamol. Aspirin and derivatives should not be used as they can cause serious illness in children.

As it is a contagious disease, it is important that the child is isolated until the pimples dry up. After the crusts fall, Constance should apply a sunscreen to protect and prevent the appearance of spots on the skin.

“Is it worth going to the pediatrician?”

Yes, it is always worth going to the pediatrician, because only he can rule out other possible causes for the symptoms of Mimi (differential diagnosis). However, some of the cases can be resolved without the intervention of the doctor. The doctor must be consulted if: fever is high or uncontrolled (even with acetaminophen), if the pimples begin to infect or if the symptoms do not improve or improve within five days, if other symptoms appear or the vesicles start to change instead of drying. Essentially, if there is any doubt, or the case is more serious.

If you have children at home or work with children, let them know and protect them with the help of your pharmacist. 😉

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