So, if you read this blog, or follow us on social media, you will know that we are quarantined with chickenpox at the moment. In fact, the patient, is sitting, looking very spotty, next to me, as I type this, but is over the worst. I had a feeling that chickenpox might be a bit challenging for him, because of his sensory issues, and I was right, and it has been a bit tougher than I remember it being with his sister, when she had chickenpox, but we have survived. We have watched a lot of tv, and played Minecraft, read stories and snuggled.
I thought I would share our top tips for surviving chickenpox, or at least what has worked for us. This is NOT medical advice, although some of my tips come from medical experience or the advice of my gp or health visitor, but if you are in any doubt or concerns about your child, whilst they have chicken pox, please seek medical advice from your doctor or local health services (the internet is not always the right place)
Keep fingernails short. Long nails mean they can really scratch, potentially causing scarring or damage to pox affected areas and and also long nails can be dirty, and scratching skin with dirty nails can be an infection risk. If your little one will tolerate them, you could put cotton socks over their hands, (this is particularly good at night to stop them scratching)
Baths. Not too hot, (because heat can make the itching worse) I use a table spoon of bicarbonate of soda, dissolved into the bath. My GP advised this, to help dry up and ease the itching of spots. We have been doing baths twice a day (which was challenging at first because my boy doesn’t like baths much, but has got used to them, this week). You can also use a very small (and I mean small, 2-3 drops, essential oils are not to be messed with, and you should always seek advice before using them on young children and never place them directly onto skin) amount of tea tree oil in the bath, it’s a natural antiseptic, and can help to prevent infection. Again, my health visitor advised me to do this, but do check before you use it. Do not use it on the face or near eyes or mouth/nose.
Calamine lotion. That age old favourite. Except, I find it a faff to spend hours dabbing it on each spot, so I get a tub of aqueous cream, and mix calamine lotion into it, and then I can apply the mixture all over the chicken pox affected area, more easily. You may find your local pharmacy will do this for you, and mix you up a tub, or you can buy ready made tubes of it, but they are quite small and you go through a lot, so I prefer to make up a big tub of my own. You can also buy something called PoxClin (which friends recommend, which contains aloe gel) which is a mousse that will help soothe spots and itchiness.
Loose soft clothing, that’s cool. Matthew has lived in his soft, old winter pyjamas this week, because they don’t irritate his skin, and are comfortable.
If your little one is still in nappies, and has lots of spots in their genital/bottom area (which is very common) you need to make sure you change them frequently, keep the area as clean and dry as possible, and keep an eye out for spots getting infected. To be honest, when Emily had chickenpox we spent a lot of time out of nappies, to let the spots air and dry, (and it kick started potty training) so if you can manage nappy free time, where possible, it’s a good idea. Keeping rooms cool, not too hot, and not too much bedding at night, so they don’t get hot, is also helpful.
It’s not advised to give ibuprofen to children with chicken pox. You can read why from the NHS here but if your child has a high fever, is uncomfortable or in pain (they can feel pretty unwell, with a sore head and if they have spots or sores in their mouth or throat can be in discomfort) you can give them the recommended dose of paracetamol for their age as instructed on the bottle or medical advice.
My doctor advised me not to use over the counter antihistamine medicines if we could avoid it, until the spots had stopped appearing or no more new spots had appeared. He explained that the antihistamine suppresses the body reacting to the chickenpox virus and it can prolong the time of the illness. The spots can be VERY itchy and unpleasant, so antihistamine may be needed, but if you are unsure, talk to your doctor or your local pharmacist might be able to advise you.
If you think the chickenpox spots might be becoming infected (spots are more red or the area around them is red and becoming redder, are oozing pus, or not crusting over and drying out like they should and your child has a fever that doesn’t ease after the first few days) then you should get your child checked out by a doctor. Infected spots are common and need to be treated with antibiotic cream or oral medication. There are also rare but potentially serious complications of chickenpox, including septicemia (blood infection) and meningitis. If you do have concerns, don’t hesitate to seek medical advice. (I actually rang our GP yesterday to ask about something I was concerned about, and they rang me back and were able to reassure me over the phone).
Your little one may not feel well for a few days, and will need to rest, drink as much fluids as you can encourage them to (or ice lollies, jelly, smoothies or cool easy to swallow things if their throat is sore) and may want to sleep more than normal. Some children recover faster than others, but a little tv time and cuddling and trying to distract them from scratching is pretty much what being at home with chicken pox entails.
Children with chickenpox are infectious until all spots have dried out and started to scab/crust over/fall off. They are also infectious/ and contagious to others 1-2 days before the spots appear (you may not know they have chickenpox until the tell tale spots start to arrive or they may be a little off colour and not themselves) and they need to be kept home from nursery, school, childcare etc until the spots are dried out. You may want to advise anyone who has been in contact with them, that they were possibly infectious, and if you are pregnant and are not sure if you are immune to chicken pox, or you have a compromised immune system, then you should seek medical advice if you have been exposed to chicken pox. Also very young babies are at risk from potentially serious complications if exposed to chickenpox, so again, seek medical advice if your newborn has been exposed.
That’s pretty much all I can think of. I would love to hear if you have any tips or advice on how to survive and cope with the dreaded pox…