Chickenpox is a mild and common childhood illness that most children catch at some point. It causes a rash of red, itchy spots that turn into fluid-filled blisters. They then crust over to form scabs, which eventually drop off. Some children have only a few spots, but other children can have spots that cover their entire body. These are most likely to appear on the face, ears and scalp, under the arms, on the chest and belly, and on the arms and legs. Chickenpox (known medically as varicella) is caused by a virus called the varicella-zoster virus. It's spread quickly and easily from someone who is infected.
Chickenpox is most common in children under the age of 10. In fact, chickenpox is so common in childhood that over 90% of adults are immune to the condition because they've had it before. Children usually catch chickenpox in winter and spring, particularly between March and May.
Chickenpox is infectious from 1 to 2 days before the rash starts, and then up until all the blisters have crusted over (usually 5 to 6 days after the start of the rash). If your child has chickenpox, try to keep them away from public areas to avoid contact with people who may not have had it, especially people who are at risk of serious problems, such as newborn babies, pregnant women and anyone with a weakened immune system (for example, people having cancer treatment or taking steroid tablets).
Chickenpox in children is considered a mild illness, but your child will probably feel pretty miserable and irritable while they have it. Your child may have a fever for the first few days of the illness. The spots can be incredibly itchy. There is no specific treatment for chickenpox, but there are pharmacy and natural remedies that can alleviate symptoms. These include paracetamol to relieve fever, and calamine lotion and cooling gels and bathing in oatmeal to ease itching.
For most children, chickenpox is a mild illness that gets better on its own. However, some children can become more seriously ill with chickenpox and need to see a doctor. Contact your GP straight away if your child develops any abnormal symptoms, such as:
if the blisters on their skin become infected
if your child has a pain in their chest or has difficulty breathing
To prevent spreading the infection, we ask that you keep your child off nursery until all their spots have crusted over, in most children, the blisters crust up and fall off naturally within one to two weeks. If you have any questions please do not hesitate to ask.