Chicken pox, an infection caused by the varicella-zoster virus, is quite common in children. It is a mild infection that is typically accompanied by an itchy and peculiar skin rash of red spots. Other chicken pox symptoms include low-grade fever, a sore throat, stomach aches, headaches, and malaise.
Chicken Pox In Babies
Chicken pox in babies is quite unusual because they are equipped with the antibodies they receive from their mother’s womb during pregnancy. These antibodies are present in them until they turn a year old and in the meantime, they protect them from chicken pox. Exceptions may occur in some cases, causing a baby to acquire the chicken pox infection.
Signs Of Chicken Pox In Babies
Use these telltale signs of chicken pox in babies to see if your child has this condition.
Red Spots And Bumps
Chicken pox first appears usually after 14 to 21 days of the viral attack and manifests as a skin rash of small red spots and bumps. These spots show up first on the face, head, and the back, and then quickly spread all over the body. New rashes might continue developing every 4 to 5 days.
Each red spot quickly turns into a blister filled with a cloudy liquid.
These blisters are dreadfully itchy and a baby experiences great discomfort when they appear. The baby cannot keep itself from scratching these blisters. Touching the liquid from a blister that bursts will spread the disease and could also lead to bacterial infections. As a result, if your baby has chicken pox, you must intervene to ensure that he does not accidentally touch the liquid inside the blisters on his skin.
Eventually, the blisters dry up and form hard crusts that scab over and fall off. At this point, when the liquid has leaked out of the blisters and the spots have developed into scabs, the skin begins to clear. The progression of the spots from bumps to blisters to crusts happens quickly and the baby might have a mix of all three types during the illness.
The infant is contagious starting the day before the fever or when the spots appear to the time at least 24 hours have elapsed after all the blisters have crusted over. This usually takes about 7 days from beginning to end. Small scars may remain after the scabs have fallen off, but they usually clear up within a few months.
The rash may be accompanied by flu-like symptoms like fever (100°-102°F or 37.7°-38.8° C), abdominal pain, and headaches. The baby may also develop a cough and a runny nose. He may become tired and crabby, and lose his appetite. These symptoms sometimes begin to occur 2 days before the onset of the rash.
Complications – Symptoms Of Greater Concern
A baby who contracts chicken pox usually recovers without treatment, in a course of 5 to 10 days. Chicken pox turns out to be more of a nuisance than any real threat. But if the rash spreads to the eyes, the child will get very uncomfortable. In such cases, it becomes necessary to consult a pediatrician immediately get chicken pox treatment.
Here are some other complications that may occur, especially in babies that are under 4 weeks old.
- The skin around the blisters may become very swollen, red, and painful. This is a sign of secondary bacterial infection in the blisters and it may develop at the sites where the baby has unwittingly scratched. This complication needs to be treated with antibiotics. If any blister begins to drain yellow pus or is over 10 mm in size, medical attention is required.
- Swelling of the brain due to encephalitis is another possible complication of chicken pox. It can lead to headaches, convulsions, vomiting, deafness, or brain damage. It occurs rarely (1–2 episodes per 10,000 varicella cases), but is the most serious complication of all.
- Chicken pox can also lead to the complication of pneumonia. Coughing and abnormally rapid breathing are usually indicative of this ailment.
Treating Chicken Pox
If your baby has chicken pox, the best thing you can do for him is to relieve the itching, or at least prevent him from scratching the rash. Here are some ways you can do that:
- Cut his fingernails or put mittens over his hands
- Dress him in cool clothes
- Give him a cool bath every 3 or 4 hours, with a sprinking of baking soda or colloidal oatmeal in the bath water
- Give him over-the-counter antihistamines, like Benadryl
- Apply calamine lotion over the chicken pox spots
Should Treat The Fever?
Studies have shown that children with chicken pox recover better when fever is allowed to continue during this illness to a certain extent. For this reason, it is advisable that you treat the fever only if it’s higher than 101°C and your baby is very ill at ease.
You can use Acetaminophen or Ibuprofen to treat the fever, but never use Aspirin or products containing aspirin, as their use to cure fever in children with chicken pox has been linked to a condition called Reye’s syndrome. This severe condition affects the liver and the brain, and in some cases, it even causes death.
If your baby has been diagnosed with chicken pox by the pediatrician, you must keep him quarantined. Avoid sending him to the daycare or to play with other children. Learning as much as you can about chicken pox in babies can help you nurse your infant back to health if and when he has this infection.