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Chicken Pox: Symptoms, Causes and Diagnosis Tests

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Are you or your child feeling itchy and uncomfortable with red spots all over your body? Could it be chickenpox? Many people are familiar with chickenpox as a childhood illness, but it can also affect adults. The patient ideally suffers from a rash of itchy, red bumps that develop into scabs. 

Chickenpox is usually a mild illness. But it can be severe in some cases. Treatment typically involves relieving symptoms and allowing the body to heal on its own. In this blog post, we'll discuss everything you need to know about chickenpox, including its symptoms, causes, treatment options and how to prevent the spread of this virus. 

What is Chickenpox?

Chickenpox is a highly contagious disease. It is caused by the varicella-zoster virus (VZV). It is characterised by a rash of itchy, fluid-filled blisters that spreads over the body. Chickenpox can be mild or severe, and can sometimes lead to complications such as pneumonia or encephalitis. 

Symptoms of Chickenpox

The symptoms of chickenpox are pretty distinctive and hard to miss. They include:

  • Fever
  • Headache
  • Loss of appetite
  • Extreme tiredness
  • Aching muscles
  • Pains in the stomach or chest

But the most distinguishing symptom is the itchy rash that breaks out all over the body. The rash starts as red bumps that turn into fluid-filled blisters. It usually takes about a week for the rash to run its course. Other symptoms of chickenpox can include:

If you or your child is suffering from any of the above symptoms as well as developing an itchy rash, visit your doctor for early diagnosis and prevention of chickenpox.

Causes of Chickenpox

The chickenpox virus is highly contagious. It is spread through coughing and sneezing. It can also be spread through contact with infected skin or surfaces. The incubation period for chickenpox is 10-21 days.

Chickenpox is caused by the varicella-zoster virus (VZV). VZV is a member of the herpesvirus family. It also includes viruses that cause cold sores and genital herpes. 

Chickenpox can be serious in some people, especially infants, adults, pregnant women and people with weakened immune systems. Complications from chickenpox include pneumonia, encephalitis (inflammation of the brain) and bacterial infections of the skin.

Managing Chickenpox Rash

Most people recover from chickenpox without any complications. However, the chickenpox rash can be very itchy and uncomfortable. There are several ways to manage the itch and help speed up the healing process:

  • Take a cool bath or shower. This will help soothe the itch. It will also prevent further irritation from scratching.
  • Apply calamine lotion or oatmeal powder to the rash. This can help relieve itchiness.
  • Avoid scratching the rash as much as possible. This can lead to infection and scarring.
  • Wear loose, comfortable clothing. Tight clothing can irritate the rash.

If the itch is severe, your doctor may prescribe an antihistamine or corticosteroid cream to help relieve the chickenpox rash.

Diagnosis and Tests for Chickenpox

If you suspect chickenpox, your doctor will likely ask about your symptoms and perform a physical examination. To confirm your diagnosis, your doctor may also recommend one or more of the following tests:

  • Blood Test - VZV DNA Detection by Real-Time PCR, where a sample of your blood can be checked for the presence of antibodies to the varicella-zoster virus. Select the best chicken pox tests here. 
  • Skin Biopsy - A small piece of skin from a blister can be removed (biopsied) and examined in a laboratory for the presence of chickenpox viruses.
  • Polymerase Chain Reaction (PCR) Test - This test can be used to detect chickenpox DNA in samples taken from blisters or mucus from the nose or throat.

Treatment for Chickenpox

If your child has chickenpox, you can treat them at home with some simple measures. First, make sure they're comfortable. Keep them cool and give them lots of fluids to drink. You can also give them over-the-counter medicines like ibuprofen or paracetamol to help with the itchiness and fever.

If the itching is severe, your doctor may prescribe an antihistamine. Do not give aspirin to children under the age of 16 as it can cause a rare but serious condition called Reye's syndrome.

Chickenpox usually clears up within a week or so without any lasting effects. However, in rare cases, it can lead to more serious problems such as pneumonia or encephalitis (inflammation of the brain). If your child is having difficulty breathing, has a severe headache or vomiting, or seems very unwell, seek medical advice immediately.

Your doctor may also recommend a course of antiviral medication for more severe cases of chickenpox. This can help to reduce the severity and duration of the illness and can also reduce the risk of complications.

Prevention of Chickenpox

There are two types of chickenpox vaccines available. The first is called Varivax and is recommended for children aged 12 months to 18 years. It is given as a shot. The second vaccine, called Zostavax, is recommended for adults aged 60 years or older. It is given as a shot or nasal spray.

The best way to prevent chickenpox is to get vaccinated against it. Chickenpox vaccines are more than 90% effective at preventing chickenpox. They are also effective at preventing severe chickenpox, which can lead to serious complications such as pneumonia, brain damage, and death.

Conclusion

In conclusion, chickenpox is a contagious illness caused by the varicella-zoster virus. It can be quite serious in adults and people with weakened immune systems. The best way to avoid getting chickenpox is to get vaccinated and take steps to reduce exposure to infected individuals. 

If you already have it, then symptom management and antiviral medications will help speed up your recovery time and prevent complications from developing. If you are unsure about the cause of the itchy rash, book a home visit with Metropolis Labs to get your blood samples collected by professional technicians and fast-track your diagnosis. 

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