How to Know If Your Child Has Chicken Pox

If your child is ill and has red bumps, you may suspect she has chicken pox. However, it can be hard to know in the early stages if it is a rash, minor illness, or actual chicken pox. Fortunately, there are a few signs that can help you determine if your son or daughter has this childhood disease. If so, a quick trip to the doctor and isolating your child from others is in order. The photo about halfway down this page shows what the beginning stages of the rash looks like.

What Causes Chicken Pox?

Chicken Pox is caused by a virus by the name of varicella zoster, which is in the herpes family of viruses. Chicken Pox has an incubation period. The symptoms may not appear for two to three weeks after exposure. The virus is highly contagious and spreads easily from one person to the next. In a household where one child has the disease, the other children are almost certain to get it.

Early Symptoms

Some of the early symptoms of the illness include:

  • Fever that starts mild and then spikes to over 100 degrees Fahrenheit
  • Headaches
  • Rash (typically on the stomach)
  • Stomach ache

It can be hard to know whether the rash is Chicken Pox, Measles, or just a strange rash. Rashes caused by varicella zoster typically start on the stomach and are very itchy. The rash will be red and will pop up in clusters. The rash then spreads to the torso and up the face. Some people even get the rash on their scalps.

If your child has had the Varicella (Chicken Pox) vaccine, he can still develop a mild case of the illness and can still pass it on to other children.

If your child has a cough, congestion and runny eyes, then it is possible he may have measles instead. A doctor will be able to confirm which virus he has.

Progression of the Virus

early chicken pox

The early stages with a watery blister.
Source: GNU Free Documentation License

The rash typically lasts a few days as the rash turns into blisters and the blisters then dry out.

It is during the time that the blisters appear and then dry out that horrible scarring can occur. It is important to take a proactive approach to prevent scarring.

  1. Cover your child’s hands with socks taped loosely at the wrist with duct tape to remind her not to scratch.
  2. Keep ointment (your doctor will prescribe or you can use home remedies) on the blisters until they are dried out and nearly healed.
  3. Have your child take oatmeal baths to soothe the skin.
  4. Once the blisters are healed, use over the counter ointments that help prevent scarring. These include products specifically formulated to lessen scarring as well as lotions with Cocoa Butter and Vitamin E (there is some debate among medical professionals about Vitamin E, so consult with your doctor and use your best judgment). Make sure the blister is completely healed as infection is one of the main reasons for scarring.

Rarer Than It Used to Be

OnlineMedicineTips estimates that about 80 percent of children are vaccinated against the chicken pox, which reduces the number of cases each year drastically. As more and more children in the United States are vaccinated, less and less people are at risk of developing chicken pox. This may not be the case in third world countries or countries where children have not been vaccinated, so use caution when traveling overseas if you’ve not developed some form of immunity.

If your child does have chicken pox, you’ll need to keep him at home until the illness passes, which is about five days after the first rash appears. Since he is contagious in the days before symptoms appear, you’ll also need to notify his school, day care, or play mates that he has the virus. Those who’ve not been vaccinated may be able to stay home and hopefully prevent further spread of the disease. Hopefully, your child will recover quickly and your only problem will be keeping him on bed rest until he’s completely healed.

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Crabby Housewife

Crabby Housewife

Lori is a full-time housewife and writer, living in the Midwest with her husband of 27 years - they have two daughters. They have a house full of pets and her house is never quite perfect.