Reason for Chickenpox

Varicella, or commonly known as chickenpox, is a contagious illness causing an itchy rash and blisters to appear all over the body. Chickenpox can cause problems for newborns, pregnant women, and adults, and people with weakened immune system are at a greater risk of developing this infection. So, exactly what is the main reason for chickenpox? Let's find out now!

Reasons for Chickenpox

1. How Do You Get Chickenpox?

Varicella-zoster virus is the main reason for chickenpox. You develop the chickenpox when the varicella-zoster virus enters your system. This usually happens after being in contact with someone who already has the infection. Tiny droplets that come out of the mouth and nose of an infected person also contain the virus. These droplets can also contaminate objects and surfaces. 

The varicella-zoster virus can spread through different ways, including the following:

  • It may spread through face-to-face contact, such as talking to someone who is already infected.
  • It may infect someone who stays in the same room with an infected person for at least 15 minutes.
  • It may spread through direct contact with the blisters.
  • You may contract the virus by touching an object that may have been contaminated with infected droplets or fluid.

You can contract an infection through these ways, but you are at a greater risk if you have a weak immune system or are pregnant. You are more likely to become infected during your first and second trimester of pregnancy. There is also an increased risk of contracting the infection during the 13th and 20th week of pregnancy, as well as five days before and two days after delivery.

2. When Is a Person Contagious?

A rash is usually the earliest sign of chickenpox, but you can spread the disease a couple of days before you develop the rash. The condition stays contagious for at least 5-7 days, until scabs develop over blisters. Once someone becomes infected, it usually takes about 2 weeks to develop chickenpox. Keep in mind that the disease is contagious even if you have been vaccinated for chickenpox but become infected.

3. Shingles and Chickenpox

The varicella zoster virus is not only the reason for chickenpox, but also is the cause for shingles. Also known as herpes zoster, shingles is actually a skin rash that can affect anyone. Even if you have had chickenpox in the past, you can still get shingles, which is mainly because the chickenpox virus can reactivate itself many years later. This usually happens in people with weak immune system.

While it is a common infection affecting about 1 out of 3 people in the United States, it is not nearly as contagious as chickenpox. It does not pass from person to person, but the varicella zoster virus can transmit to other people. If this happens, the recipient might not develop shingles but he/she may still develop chickenpox.

Symptoms and Complications of Chickenpox

1. Symptoms

The symptoms are usually more severe in adults as compared to children. You may have:

  • High temperature with headache and aches before a rash appears
  • Spots on your skin that appear in crops and soon turn into small, itchy blisters
  • Blisters in your mouth and other parts of the body
  • Feeling of being sick with severe tiredness and loss of appetite

2. Complications

Children rarely develop any complications but adults are more likely to deal with significant complications such as the following:

  • You may develop secondary bacterial infections due to Streptococcus or Staphylococcus bacteria.
  • A rare complication of chickenpox is pneumonia that requires hospitalization.
  • Chickenpox can lead to the inflammation of the balance center of the brain and causes symptoms such as poor balance and abnormal eye movements. Symptoms do not last for several days though.
  • Reye's syndrome is another relatively rare but possible childhood complication of chickenpox and causes problems such as vomiting, nausea, combativeness, and delirium.

Some other rare complications include ulcers of the intestinal tract, kidney disease, hepatitis, and inflammation of the testes. However, these complications are not that common and usually affect certain people, such as pregnant women, people with a weak immune system, people with severe skin conditions, and people with lung or heart disease.

Treatment for Chickenpox

Certain treatments are available but once you know the reason for chickenpox, you may also want to try some home remedies to make things more manageable.

1. Home Remedies

You can take the following steps to reduce the discomfort associated with chickenpox.

  • Apply Cool Compresses on Blisters: This may help find some relief. Calamine lotions may help as well, but avoid the ones that contain Benadryl.
  • Take Cool-Water Baths: You will feel better after taking cool-water baths, so it is fine to take baths every 3-4 hours. Add some baking soda to the water to help relieve itching.
  • Stay Hydrated: Be sure to drink plenty of water when you get chickenpox. You should encourage your child to do the same. Give them plenty of liquids, especially if they have a fever. This will help keep skin hydrated and reduce itchiness. Drinking 8-10 glasses of water a day is important.
  • Consuming More Vitamin C: Eat grapefruits, oranges, tangerines and other citrus fruits to increase your vitamin C intake, which in turn will help boost your immune system. Fruits like strawberries, kiwis, papaya, etc., and vegetables like spinach, broccoli, and kale will also help strengthen your immune system.
  • Use Honey: Thanks to its antibacterial and anti-inflammatory properties, applying honey on your blisters will help reduce the itchiness and trigger healing. It also helps keep your skin hydrated. Simply wash your hands thoroughly and use your finger to apply honey directly on the blisters thrice a day.

2. Medical Treatment

You usually do not need any medical treatment, but your doctor may prescribe some medicines to treat certain symptoms. For instance:

  • You may have to take aciclovir or other antiviral drugs to help shorten the duration of the symptoms.
  • You may have to take antihistamines to relieve swelling and itching.
  • You may need to take painkillers to alleviate the discomfort.
  • You may require antibiotics if a bacterial infection develops due to itching. 

Besides knowing reason for chickenpox, it is also important to know how to prevent chickenpox.

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