Experience 13 year
Doctor of the highest category. Member of the European Respiratory Society and the Russian Respiratory Society
Chickenpox, or varicella, is an acute viral disease that occurs mostly at a young age and affects the skin. The pathogen is a type of herpesvirus and once it enters the body, it stays there for life. As the disease passes, it persists in the nerve cells.
Causes of occurrence
The cause of chickenpox can only be attributed to the entry of a specific virus into the human body. This virus is overwhelmingly transmitted by airborne droplets and can also be caused by shingles.
Who is most susceptible to this disease?
According to researchers, people living in big cities are more susceptible to this disease than people living in the countryside.
Age also matters: chickenpox is most common in children aged 2.5 - 6 and in children in primary schools. However, there are also cases among middle-aged men and women. The later a person becomes ill, the more severe symptoms become.
The first symptoms of chickenpox occur after the incubation period. On average, it lasts from 7 to 21 days after the penetration of the pathogen into the human body.
In most cases, the initial manifestation of the illness is a severe fever that lasts for 3 - 7 days and may be accompanied by body aches, headache, insomnia, restless sleep and loss of appetite.
This is followed by the main symptom of chickenpox - a rash, which appears on the torso and head (up to the hairy part of the head) and spreads to the extremities. Rashes can be found in the most unexpected areas, such as the vaginal area, the oral mucosa and the cornea of the eyes.
The diameter of a single spot is 1 - 4 mm. At first, they look like blisters surrounded by reddened skin, inside which a clear liquid accumulates. The blisters then become drier and form crusts instead.
At this stage, most people with chickenpox suffer from intolerable itching. However, scratching the papules is strictly prohibited: otherwise they will leave scars.
In some cases, patients may have enlarged lymph nodes selectively or all at once, among the symptoms of chickenpox.
As a rule, this disease usually passes without serious consequences, especially if you do not scratch the papules. However, in rare cases, complications from chickenpox can still occur.
Some of them are:
- a bacterial infection caused by streptococcus;
- viral pneumonia, which is more common in babies in their first year of life and presents as a high body temperature, excessive pallor, a dry cough and severe shortness of breath even when at rest;
- temporary disruption of the central nervous system;
- varicella meningitis.
To avoid such consequences, the course of the disease should be monitored and treated under the supervision of a general practitioner, a paediatrician or an infectious disease specialist.
The diagnosis of chickenpox, as well as its treatment, is carried out by a paediatrician, a general practitioner (if an adult is ill) or an infectious disease specialist.
The general clinical picture of the patient is taken as the basis. The diagnosis can be confirmed by blood tests (general one, PCR or ELISA, which are taken twice during the initial and final stages) and microscopic examination of the contents of the blisters formed on the skin.
Treatment for chickenpox with the standard course of the disease takes place at home after consultation with a doctor. It is aimed at improving the patient's general well-being: paracetamol preparations are used to reduce the fever.
In the vast majority of cases, patients suffer from intolerably skin itching. Special ointments and solutions based on zinc and potassium permanganate, with the addition of tea tree oil, are prescribed to relieve this condition. Antihistamines may be recommended. Often a doctor prescribes ointments, the effect of which is aimed at destroying the viral pathogen.
In more serious cases (especially in the presence of shingles), a doctor prescribes analgesics. Immunoglobulins are administered if the immune system is extremely low and detoxification solutions are given if the body is severely intoxicated.
When should you see a doctor?
If you notice the first symptoms of chickenpox in children or adults, you should isolate the sick person as soon as possible and call a doctor at home. It is strongly advised not to go to a hospital yourself if you are suspected of having this illness. Such measures are dictated by the protection of other people who can easily become infected. The sooner a specialist examines the patient, the better.
Self-treatment of chickenpox
The process of treatment should always be supervised by a doctor. This is due to possible complications dictated by the individual characteristics of the body and illiterate selection of medications.
For example, ibuprofen-based medications are contraindicated in chickenpox, while paracetamol is allowed. Only specialists know these and other nuances.
Questions and Answers
Is there a way to prevent chickenpox?
The preventive measure of not coming into contact with people who are ill is not always effective. The fact is that infection can occur even before the first symptoms of the disease have been detected. That is, he or she can socialise with friends without knowing that he or she is infected.
The disease can be prevented by vaccination with special live vaccines based on weakened chickenpox virus.
Which specialist should you consult for treatment?
Chickenpox in children is treated by a paediatrician or a paediatric infectious disease specialist. If an adult is ill, a general practitioner or an adult infectious disease doctor should be called in as soon as the first symptoms of chickenpox are detected.
Can you bathe if you have chickenpox?
Since the quality of tap water in most cities leaves much to be desired, you should take a shower (not a bath) using boiled or filtered water. Otherwise, there is a risk of a bacterial infection joining the viral form, which in turn can cause serious complications. It is better to wash with warm water. It is strictly forbidden to use a flannel, to rub the skin or to steam it.
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