What are the symptoms of chickenpox and How long is chickenpox contagious?

Chickenpox or Varicella is a viral infection characterized by a rash of small red spots that first appear on the back and chest and then spread to cover the rest of the body.

The rash is usually preceded for a few days by a slight fever, sore throat, and discharge of mucus from the nose. The spots develop quickly into clear, oval blisters of various sizes. These become milky in color and within three or four days shrivel up as scabs, which may take another week to fall off.

One or two more waves of rashes may occur in the next two to three days.

The rash is often very itchy.

During the acute stage of the disorder, which lasts for three or four days, the patient's temperature may rise as high as 102-104°F (39-40°C); a physician should be consulted.

There is no vaccine against chicken-pox.

Chickenpox is a contagious viral disease that produces an itchy, blister-like rash.

Children are more likely to get chickenpox than adults, since by the age of 15, about 75 percent of children have had chickenpox, and it is unusual to get the disease a second time.

People in poor health and the elderly should avoid contact with a child with chickenpox, because the infection may cause related disorder, shingles (herpes zoster), which is more common in adults.
Apart from the back and chest, chickenpox spots may spread to the rest of the trunk and face, as well as to the limbs. Spots may also appear in the mucous membranes, such as those of the mouth and vagina, or in the ears.

How long is chickenpox contagious?

The first symptoms appear 12 to 17 days after contact with the disease. The contagious stage extends from about five days before the outbreak of the rash until all of the blisters have crusted.

It is advisable to isolate the patient once the spots appear.

The disease is spread through direct contact with the rash or tiny droplets that are exhaled by infected persons.

How long does chickenpox last?

The acute illness lasts for three or four days, but it is usually another seven to ten days before the spots have disappeared.

Chickenpox treatment

Calamine lotion has a soothing effect on the irritating spots and a physician may prescribe an antihistamine drug (also useful for its sedative effect) to reduce the irritation.
It is most important to keep the patient from scratching the spots because the further infection can easily result if the skin is broken.
For this reason, babies and small children may sometimes have to wear gloves. A physician may prescribe acetaminophen, which is taken every four hours to reduce the fever and headache.

A child must be encouraged to drink plenty of liquids.

Nightwear and bedclothes should be light and preferably made of cotton because wool and synthetic fabrics are likely to be irritating to the skin.

Chickenpox complications

Chickenpox complications are rare, but chest infections, such as bronchitis and pneumonia, sinusitis, and middle ear infection (otitis media), may occur. These can all be treated effectively with prescribed antibiotics. A more serious possible complication is encephalitis (brain inflammation).

How long is it before a child is back to normal after chickenpox?

A child may be irritable and unusually tired for about a week after the symptoms of chickenpox have disappeared, so it is important that he or she does not return to school too soon after the illness.