Common ailments

Chickenpox

My five-year old daughter has developed an itchy rash with little blistering red spots all over her body, a high temperature and doesn’t want to eat. What could be wrong?

This sounds like a classic case of chickenpox, a common childhood illness that most children will catch at some point. The virus causes a rash of red, itchy spots that turn into blisters. Five or six days later, the blisters will crust over to form scabs which will eventually drop off.

Whilst chickenpox is very contagious, it is most contagious before the spots even appear and will continue to be until all the spots have scabbed over. It is therefore important that you keep your daughter away from school until all the spots have crusted over. You will also need to avoid general contact with people who have not already had chickenpox. For people with a weakened immune system, such as newborn babies or the elderly, as well as pregnant women, chickenpox can be extremely dangerous.

You can expect your daughter to be miserable and irritable while she has chickenpox as the spots can be incredibly itchy. It is important however to try and stop her from scratching them as this can lead to infection and scarring.

Although there is no specific treatment for chickenpox, there are several things you can do to alleviate the symptoms. Over-the-counter remedies include children’s antihistamine syrup or simple calamine lotion to relieve the itching. A cool bath containing a handful of baking soda may also provide welcome relief. If your daughter continues to have a fever then it may be worth keeping some children’s paracetamol to hand as well. Research has shown that the cooler the skin is kept, the fewer spots are likely to appear so wearing cotton next to skin and not too many layers of clothes can help.

Should your daughter become more seriously ill with the chickenpox, or the blisters become infected, then you must contact your GP straight away.

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