Varicella Zoster, which has the common name of chicken pox, is a highly contagious viral disease.
Even though it’s often called a ‘childhood illness’ it can be caught by anyone who hasn’t had it before.
After you’ve had chicken pox, your body usually develops a high immunity to the virus, protecting you from contracting it again.
However, even if you are immune to chicken pox, if your health breaks down badly (lowering your immune system), or if you start taking immunity suppressing drugs such as cortisone, you may develop shingles.
Shingles often occurs when people grow older and their health is poor and stress is high. Keeping in good health with a healthy diet and lifestyle will help prevent shingles.
Chicken Pox Symptoms
The symptoms of chicken pox are:
- General feeling of being unwell
- Low-grade fever
- Feeling of stuffiness in the nose and possibly a cough
- Blisters on the skin that become filled with fluid
- Sores in the mouth, in the nose, genitals and other moist places
How do you catch chicken pox?
In order to catch chicken pox, you must come close to someone who has chicken pox in its early stages (before the blisters are out) or someone who has just been vaccinated and is shedding the live virus.
It’s spread by airborne droplets from the upper respiratory tract of the infected or recently vaccinated person, or through coming into contact with the fluid from the blisters.
Many times you won’t know you have contracted chicken pox until the blisters start appearing, but the most contagious time is the two weeks before that. You are contagious until the blisters dry up.
Who Is Most At Risk From Catching Chicken Pox?
In pregnant women, chicken pox can cause birth defects if she catches chicken pox in the early months. If she catches it later, the baby may be born with chicken pox blisters, and may be at risk of shingles early in life. For people with impaired immunity, such as those taking immunity suppressing drugs for autoimmune diseases, catching any virus can be risky.
What Are The Complications Of Chicken Pox?
Possible complications of chicken pox include:
- Permanent marks or scars, especially if scratched
- Cellulitis, which is a type of bacterial infection, that can occur at scratched sites and can spread to other places on the skin
- Secondary infections like pneumonia (caused by inflammation in the lungs), or encephalitis which is inflammation of the brain (adults and those with impaired immune systems are more at risk of contracting this complication)
- Bleeding disorders can occur rarely
Speeding Up Healing Of Chicken Pox And Preventing Secondary Infection
Because the chicken pox virus takes a few weeks to run its course, you wouldn’t want to prolong the healing period, especially in children who usually don’t take well to bed rest. Resting is very important for healing, however, especially in adults.
Treat the fever by giving the sick person lots of fluids, such as water, chicken broth, non-acidic juices or whole fat milk (if tolerated). Bathe the skin in lukewarm water, or wrap in a damp sheet if fever is higher. Do not give medications to reduce the fever unless it goes over 38.5 degrees Celcius or 101 degrees Fahrenheit. If needed, give paracetemol or acetominophen.
Aspirin should not be used due to the possibility of Reyes Syndrome (a bleeding disorder). Ibuprofen is also not recommended as it may increase the risk of streptococcal skin infections.
Giving nourishing foods during recovery is especially important.
L-Lysine has been shown to decrease the number of pox and the length of time in recovery.
Foods That Aid Chicken Pox Recovery
- Eat plenty of vegetables of varying colours (each colour has its own health benefits) and non-acidic fruits
- Natural yoghurt and kefir are a good source of lysine as well as being full of probiotics
- Chicken soup made from a whole chicken, boiled for several hours till it falls apart (organic or at least raised without antibiotics) with veggies
- Beef tea made with bones
- Shiitake mushrooms are very healing — add to soups or veggie broths
- Eggs, chicken, fish, beef, turkey and liver all have good amounts of Lysine which can speed healing
- Avoid foods with added sugars, or high carbohydrate such as bread, pasta, unsoaked raw nuts and seeds, as they slow down healing
- Nutritional yeast or brewer’s yeast (high in Lysine) can be added by the teaspoonful into soup or yoghurt to boost healing
- Rosehip syrup or powder can be taken for Vitamin C as can Acerola cherries, blackberries and elderberries
- Garlic has incredible healing power and is a good preventative natural antibiotic. Crush and add raw to soup just before serving, or have it in yoghurt as a sauce for salads
- Natural apple cider vinegar given with food in small amounts helps to aid digestion of nutrients
- High factor Manuka honey is antibacterial and antiviral and can help reduce the severity of symptoms
- Coconut oil used in cooking or taken orally, which has antibacterial, anti-fungal and antiviral properties
It’s very important to prevent secondary skin infections by preventing scratching as much as possible.
Here are 7 ways to ease the itch:
- 1: Apply coconut oil to the blisters as they come up. Do this by putting some of the oil on a cotton bud to avoid getting the fluids from the pox on your fingers. Inspect the child diligently every couple of hours to make sure you get some oil on each blister. Coconut oil is antibacterial and antiviral and may even prevent some blisters from coming up when used efficiently. It can also be used in the mouth and genitals for sores occurring in those places.
- 2: Aloe vera gel can help with healing for the blisters.
- 3: Tea tree oil is antibacterial, antiviral and anti-fungal. It can be used in a similar way to the coconut oil to prevent itch and secondary infection.
- 4: Lavender essential oil, can be used as with coconut oil.
- 5: Lukewarm baths with baking soda, sea salt or herbs such as chamomile, oats, a few drops of some essential oil such as lavender or tea tree. Apple cider vinegar can be added to the bath to instantly relieve itch.
- 6: Trim and scrub fingernails regularly to prevent transferring bacteria to the skin while scratching.
- 7: Put cotton mittens on young children if they cannot stop scratching.
When Should My Child Recover From Chicken Pox?
When our children are sick, we want to make them well as soon as possible. Viruses will need to run their course, but with good attention and using the suggestions above your child should recover from chicken pox within 2-3 weeks.
If your child is not moving or too weak to stand, call an emergency doctor or 000 immediately.
Call the doctor within a few hours if your child:
- Looks or acts very sick
- Has red swollen streaks or areas on skin
- Painful swelling on face
- Is difficult to awaken, or is confused, delirious, or has trouble walking or a swollen or stiff neck
- Breathing is difficult
- Bleeding from the pox
- Has fever over 40 degrees Celsius or 104 degrees Fahrenheit and paracetamol has not brought it down after 2 hours
- Has vomited 3 or more times
- Has eye pain or constant blinking
- Has a chronic disease
- Has taken steroids both oral and inhaled (such as an asthma inhaler)
- Has a chronic skin condition
- Has a chronic lung disease
- Herbal Antibiotics by Stephen Harrod Buhner