What Are the Causes of the Chicken Pox?

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What Are the Causes of the Chicken Pox?
What Are the Causes of the Chicken Pox? (Image: glyndwr2: Flickr)

Chickenpox is a common illness that causes an itchy rash and red spots or blisters to appear all over your body. Chickenpox is most common in children under the age of 12, however anyone who has not had the chickenpox vaccine can get the disease. Chickenpox is usually not serious in healthy children, but it can cause problems for newborns, pregnant women, adults and teens. Chickenpox can also cause problems for people who have immune system problems, making it harder to fight off the infection.

Causes

Chickenpox is caused by the virus known as varicella-zoster. This virus can spread easily. You can become infected with chickenpox if a person that has the virus coughs or sneezes on you. You can also contact chickenpox by touching the fluid from a chickenpox blister and by sharing food or drinks.

Symptoms

The first symptoms of chickenpox include headaches, fever, and a sore throat. The infected person may experience a loss of appetite, fatigue, and sickness. The chickenpox rash normally appears about one to two days after the first symptoms; however some children get the chickenpox rash without having the early symptoms. Symptoms normally appear 14 to 16 days after your initial exposure to someone with the virus. After the red spots appear it normally takes one to two days for the red spots to go through all the stages. These stages include blistering, bursting, drying, and crusting.

Diagnosis

Chickenpox can be diagnosed by your doctor, though in some cases a doctor visit is not necessary for healthy children. Your doctor might ask you to describe your child's symptoms over the phone to reduce the risk of spreading the virus. Adults, teenagers, and pregnant women should go to the doctor for a diagnosis. This is vital for pregnant women because chickenpox during early pregnancy can cause birth defects.

Treatment

Typically, healthy children and adults only need home treatment. At-home treatments include resting and taking medication to relieve itching and reducing fever. In some cases, people soak in oatmeal baths to help relieve itching and/or apply calamine lotion to the affected area. People with health problems or long-term diseases might need other treatments for chickenpox. In such cases, the doctor will prescribe antiviral medication.

Prevention

Most people who have contracted chickenpox develop a lifelong immunity to the virus after their first occurrence and never experience it again. The virus is still present in the body, bit it will manifest into shingles if it resurfaces. Most children can be protected from getting chickenpox by receiving the varicella vaccine. According to familydoctor.org, "over 90 percent of children who receive the vaccination will not get chickenpox". The vaccine is given to children between the ages of 12 to 18 months and the second dosage is given between 4 to 6 years of age. If an adult has not received the vaccination they can do so at anytime.

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