Chickenpox is a common viral infection and is a rite of passage for almost all children. It is easily identified by an itchy, spotty rash that can appear anywhere on the body. Caused by the varicella-zoster virus, it does not have a cure and will usually clear up in about one to two weeks on its own. The symptoms are unpleasant and can be especially distressing for children. Providing comfort, managing symptoms, and preventing the spread of infection are key steps when caring for a child with chickenpox.
Comforting a sick child is essential in helping them to feel better both physically and emotionally. Illness can be confusing for children, so try to stay calm and provide reassurance that it will pass and that you are there to take care of them. Encourage rest, provide a comfortable environment, and when distraction from symptoms is needed, engage the child in activities such as reading books, watching movies, or playing gentle games. Providing love, support, and reassurance can go a long way in supporting their recovery.
Staying hydrated is vital in helping the body to recover from the infection, as chickenpox can cause fever and sweating. Replenishing lost fluids will help the body fight the infection and reduce the intensity of other symptoms, such as headaches. Water and clear broths are a great option, as are rehydration energy drinks that are packed full of electrolytes. Ice lollies can be a fun way to encourage children to stay hydrated.
Itching can be reduced by taking cool baths or using a cold compress. Hot water should be avoided, as this can aggravate itchy areas. Oatmeal baths are also a great way to calm itchy skin; simply add colloidal oatmeal to a lukewarm bath. Oatmeal bath products can be purchased at drugstores or can be made by grinding oatmeal into a fine powder.
Calamine lotion is a popular choice for chickenpox as it has a cooling effect and can be liberally slathered on, soothing affected areas. Petroleum jelly or other fragrance-free, anti-itch lotions can also be used.
Preventing the Spread of Infection
Children infected with the chickenpox virus should be kept at home and isolated from others as it is highly contagious. Chickenpox can be extremely dangerous for pregnant women, newborns, and those with weakened immune systems. In addition to isolation, simple steps can be taken, such as teaching the child to cover their mouth and nose when coughing or sneezing and good hand hygiene. To prevent the spread of infection to other parts of the body, scratching should be discouraged, and getting a chickenpox vaccination is a must.
It is important to remember that every child is unique both in terms of their physical and emotional reaction to illness, and you may need to adapt your approach to caring for them. While it can be distressing to see a child suffering, the above steps are a great place to start to ensure that their experience of chickenpox is as comfortable as possible.