Chicken pox is caused by the varicella-zoster virus. Children are more susceptible to chicken pox than adults, and before the vaccine was developed most children suffered through chicken pox before the age of 12. Chicken pox is highly contagious, so children that contract chicken pox should stay home until symptoms of the virus clear. Chicken pox usually takes between one and two weeks to run its course.
Chicken Pox Symptoms
Chicken pox generally starts with flu-like symptoms such as a sore throat, headache, and fever. After a few days, a skin rash appears, usually starting on the face, back, or abdomen and progressively spreading to cover the entire body. The rash starts out as small red bumps that look like pimples or bug bites, then moves on to blisters, which eventually pop and scab. The rash is very itchy throughout the entire ordeal, but using calamine lotion or soaking in oatmeal baths may help. A mild fever and ill feeling usually accompanies chicken pox.
Chicken Pox Risks and Complications
Suffering from chicken pox in youth puts people at greater risk for developing shingles at older ages. The virus stays in nerve cells in the body even after symptoms clear and can manifest as shingles, which causes a rash, tingling, itching, and pain. In some cases, both chicken pox and shingles can cause bacterial infections affecting the bones, skin, lungs, and brain. Chicken pox or shingles can be more harmful to those with compromised immune systems or pregnant mothers.
Chicken Pox Vaccine
The chicken pox vaccine has shown to be 99 percent effective in preventing the virus. The chicken pox vaccine also does not carry the same risk of shingles as getting chicken pox. Doctors recommend that children receive two vaccinations, a shot at 12 to 15 months old and a booster shot between the ages of 4 and 6.