Chickenpox is an acute, highly contagious virus that infects up to 90% of people who come into contact with the virus and most commonly affects children. Most people will experience it once during their lifetime, usually as a child. This single episode may cause lasting effects on the skin, including chickenpox scars. Chickenpox scars are more likely to develop if a person picks or scratches at the rash. The scars may be bothersome for some people, especially if they are on visible parts of the body, such as the face.
- Research shows nine out of 10 children in New Zealand and Australia will catch chickenpox, most of them before the age of four. Caused by the highly contagious virus, varicella-zoster, chickenpox results in a number of very unpleasant symptoms including an itchy rash, spots and blisters. The resulting scratching can lead to further infections, sleepless nights and permanent scarring.
- Research has found that scratching and scarring are two of the top concerns for parents when it comes to chickenpox. With over half saying they worry about their children scratching, and 38 per cent saying they are concerned about spots scarring.
What causes Chickenpox?
Chickenpox is a viral infection caused by Varicella Zoster Virus (VZV) – the same virus that causes shingles. It causes an itchy, red, lumpy rash and pain along the area of skin supplied by the affected nerve.
Chickenpox is transmitted through direct person-to-person contact and airborne droplet infection (e.g. coughing and sneezing). The incubation period is about 10 to 21 days, however, the most infectious period is from one to two days before the rash appears but a person will continue to be infectious until all the lesions have crusted over (commonly about five to six days after the onset of the illness). Outbreaks of the virus tend to occur in winter and spring.
Signs and symptoms?
Many people will experience fever and a feeling of malaise before the visible onset of lesions. The rash is very itchy and the lesions are identifiable to a trained eye.
Symptoms of chickenpox include:
- Low-grade fever (37-38 degrees Celcius)
- Feeling low and lethargic
- Small blisters surrounded by irregularly-shaped patches of inflamed skin. These first appear on the torso, and then spread to head and limbs. The rash can be mild to very profuse.
The chickenpox rash contains many lesions which develop at different stages. After 48 hours the characteristic symptom of chicken pox will have developed which is the itchy, red and lumpy rash on the face, torso and limbs. As many as 250 – 500 chickenpox blisters can develop. New clear vesicles (fluid-filled blisters) develop for the first seven days of rash progression. The vesicles then progress to pustules (pus-filled blisters) and then after a week the blisters crust over and begin to dry up. The whole process can last up to 20 days.
Spots can appear everywhere, including the face, scalp, ears, back, chest, legs, arms, hands, feet, bottom and private parts. It’s important to note that people who have been vaccinated against chickenpox often have atypical symptoms of chicken pox. Spots might not appear on the torso first and can be very mild in appearance.
Chickenpox in healthy children is usually a mild illness with no complications; however, adults, pregnant women and those whose immune systems are compromised due to illness or treatments may experience more serious complications.
What Causes Chickenpox to Spread?
Once you have been exposed to chicken pox, and if you have been infected, it takes around 14 days for the rash to appear. This is called the incubation period. The virus is highly contagious and can be passed on by airborne droplets from the mouth or nose (via sneezing or coughing). The fluid in the blisters also contains the virus, and touching them can be a means of passing on the infection. The contagion period usually starts 1-3 days before the rash appears and continues until the blisters form scabs, which happens about 5-7 days after the rash first appears.
What Natural Treatment Alternatives Are There?
Chickenpox in children is generally a mild illness, but expect your child to feel pretty miserable and irritable while they have it. Your child is likely to have a fever at least for the first few days of the illness and the spots are incredibly itchy. There is no specific treatment for chickenpox, but there are a number of natural alternatives that can ease itching. In most children, the blisters crust up and fall off naturally within one to two weeks, cut their nails short to prevent them from scratching, as this can cause scarring.
Once the virus has been confirmed there are a number of natural alternatives to help soothe the itchy skin.
- Manuka Biotic® Body Lotion: Thick in texture and rich in emollients, the Manuka Biotic® Body Lotion moisturises even the driest of skin, creates an effective barrier, reduces inflammation, and fights bacteria. Our Manuka Biotic® Body Lotion is infused with the world’s only certified organic Manuka oil, which has powerful antiseptic, anti-inflammatory and anti-microbial properties that work to actively disinfect the skin of bacteria can effectively assist the healing of chickenpox spots. Our Body Lotion is filled with rich natural oils like rosehip oil, jojoba oil, shea butter and vitamin E that effectively assist the healing of chickenpox spots and reduce scarring on the skin.
- Manuka Biotic® BodyWash: Containing Manuka Oil our Body Wash is antibacterial and anti-inflammatory and can help reduce the bacteria on the skin and help reduce the risk of the chickenpox virus becoming infected.
- Collidial Oats can help calm the skin and can be used in the bath. A tepid bath running the water, get some simple porridge oats, pop two handfuls of them into the foot of an old pair of tights or a clean soak, tie a knot close to where the oats are in the foot and then chuck this into a bath of running water. Squeeze and watch the water turn a lovely creamy colour. It’s so soothing for the skin and good itch relief.
- Calamine Lotion offers a momentary cooling effect as the liquid evaporates from the skin. However, this drying effect may exacerbate the condition and actually cause further itching.
Don’t forget: when choosing a new cream or moisturiser for your families skin it’s vital to test a small area of skin to check if you are allergic to any of the ingredients.
It is important to remember to monitor children to make sure they avoid scratching the rash as much as possible. Pre-existing skin conditions like eczema may be further aggravated, however, you might find your usual topical treatment could help reduce the itching and inflammation.
As with any other virus, check your little one’s temperature, and make sure to give plenty of fluids and allow your child to rest. Remember to let school or nursery know, and warn people that have been in contact with your little one the day or two before the spots came out: they will be susceptible too, so it’s nice to warn the other parents.
Our Manuka Biotic Recommendations
Our Body Lotion is a soft and creamy balm, that has been specifically formulated with organic Manuka oil, known for is amazing healing powers, and other natural ingredients including jojoba oil, rosehip oil, shea butter and olive oil that help hydrate even the itchiest of skin, by creating an effective barrier, reducing redness, calming irritated skin and improve the appearance of scarring on the skin.
Our BodyWash is infused with certified organic Manuka oil making it the perfect antibacterial and anti-inflammatory body wash, perfect for reducing bacteria on the skin and helping reduce the risk of the chickenpox spots becoming infected. Plus it’s all natural, making bathtimes free from all the nasty toxins and chemicals.
Read Our Manuka Mum’s Experiences
Hear directly from a few of our lovely Manuka Mum’s sharing their experiences of using our products on their little one’s chickenpox. Click on the names below to see their story.
Why Manuka Biotic®?
- We use the worlds only certified organic Manuka oil.
- All our products contain potent antibacterial, anti-fungal, anti-inflammatory properties to help soothe and repair the skin.
- Our products are 100% New Zealand made.
- Our products are made using natural ingredients and are FREE from:
- Sodium Lauryl Sulfate & SLES
- PEGs, PABA, EDTA
- Added fragrances & colouring
- Mineral Oils
- Propylene Glycol
- Animal testing or animal derivatives
Please read the full ingredient list for any known irritants or allergies. We advise trying new products on a small patch of skin and waiting 24 hours to make sure there is no reaction. Any natural product on the market could contain an ingredient that won’t agree with your skin.
Want to know more?
There’s plenty you can do to relieve symptoms if your little one chickenpox gets worse. Anyone who has chickenpox should ask a doctor or dermatologist what their best option is for dealing with the open sores to ensure they don’t get infected.
Remember, your health provider will also be able to offer assistance with assessing and treating your symptoms.
For further information talk to your doctor.