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February 2012
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The Chickenpox Challenge
Info and tips for dealing with this itchy virus, especially when your child is sick.

Although adults can get chickenpox, childhood is often the time when individuals experience the virus. According to KidsHealth, part of the Nemours Foundation, chickenpox is caused by the virus varicella zoster. Symptoms include a rash of blister-like spots, itchy skin and sometimes general cold symptoms. Usually, chickenpox is an irritating, yet mild illness; however, some complications can occur. Here are some things you should know: 
  1. Someone with chickenpox is most contagious during the first two to five days of being sick – which is about one to two days before a rash appears. Therefore, coughing and sneezing can transmit the virus even before the carrier knows they have it. 
  2. Until recently, about three million people got chickenpox each year. Now that many children get the chickenpox vaccination, fewer incidences are reported. The shot is often given at age one, but you can get it when you’re older, too. 
  3. Some people stop getting new blisters on the third day, others around the seventh day. Generally, it takes about 10 to 14 days for new blisters to stop appearing and for the chickenpox to stop being contagious. 
If you’ve ever had a child with chickenpox, or you can remember when you had it, you know how frustrating it can be. Here are some tips from the Mayo Clinic to help soothe irritated skin and other symptoms: 
  1. Scratching can cause scarring and infections. If your child is having trouble avoiding the urge to scratch, try putting gloves on his or her hands, especially at night. You can also trim the child’s fingernails. 
  2. A cool bath with baking soda, uncooked oatmeal or colloidal oatmeal (a finely ground oatmeal made for baths) can help relieve itching and discomfort. 
  3. Try applying calamine lotion on the spots for added relief. 
  4. Antihistamines may be used to help with itching while acetaminophen and ibuprofen may help mild fevers. Talk with your doctor first. 
Always keep an eye on your child to make sure a normal case of chickenpox doesn’t turn into something more serious. Consult your healthcare provider with any questions or concerns. For more information about the virus and tips on making your child as comfortable as possible, visit KidsHealth at, and the Mayo Clinic at


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