This article will be the first in a series of articles, pertaining to the incidence and treatment of childhood communicable diseases, beginning with the common disease of chickenpox. Children typically get this disease early in life and its progression occurs in a way that can elicit quite a few detailed terms that may only be familiar in the medical community. For this reason, not only will I present these medical terms in this article, but I will also explain what they mean in simple, layman terms, that a physician, or nurse, should use when speaking with a patient.
Chickenpox is also known as varicella and is extremely contagious. Such a contagious illness is caused by a primary infection with the varicella zoster virus (VZV), and immediately warrants the institution of certain precautions in order to ensure that this disease is not spread to others, whether they be family members, friends, or health care workers and care givers. In fact, it can be spread simply through direct human contact with any secretions from the rash, which I will speak of in the next paragraph of this article.
While a chickenpox vaccine has been produced recently, many adults have been exposed to chickenpox already and many young children have yet to experience it. If you have had chickenpox, you may be somewhat familiar with the progression of this disease. A pyretic, or itchy, rash is typically the first thing that will appear on your child's skin. It is most common to observe the beginnings of chickenpox on a child's body and face, rather than on their hands, feet or anywhere else on their extremities. This itchy rash begins as a maculae, which is simply a noticeable reddened area. With time, this maculae develops into a papule, which is a raised area in the sequence of a human body's response. Once this areas has progressed this far, it turns into a pustule, which is essentially a fluid filled area on one's skin.
An interesting note about chickenpox is that it is communicable at least two days before the rash response actually begins. For this reason, the child may be communicable before you even know he or she is ill. Your parental instincts in caring for your child will come in handy here, especially if your child begins to deviate from how it 'normally' acts. While we all have mood swings and days where we don't quite feel our best, in a child with chickenpox, they may demonstrate behaviors like increased fussiness.
If your child becomes in need of an antipyretic medications, in order to help alleviate the signs and symptoms of chickenpox, children are recommended to be given Tylenol, rather than Aspirin. While aspirin has numerous properties, and can exert different effects regardless of the population it is given to, just about any nursing textbook or NCLEX review book is bound to address aspirin's link to incidences of what is known as Reye's Syndrome. Reye's syndrome is essentially a disease that will affect the functioning of a child's liver. Because the liver is the main sight of medication metabolism, it is absolutely imperative that you do everything within your power to avoid Reye's Syndrome.
Typically, signs and symptoms are manifested more intensely in adults with chickenpox. Children are recommended to take an oral drug called Acyclovir, within 24 hours of the rash onset, and they may see a marked decrease in symptoms of the disease by one day. Ultimately, one must remember that children generally experience symptoms of chickenpox more mildly than adults do, with an intense desire to itch one's skin being a primary concern that is addressed through treatment. There are a variety of treatments or interventions that a registered nurse, or a care giver, can apply when treating a child who has chickenpox.
While very few clinical tests have been done to evaluated the effectiveness of calamine lotion, it does appear to be a very safe topical (it is put on your skin) for you to use. As mentioned above, one's desire to itch any stage of the disease progression of chickenpox can quickly lead to altered skin integrity. While the skin is broken down through scratching, unfortunately, this could lead the way to even greater secondary infection that is definitely an unwelcomed complication of any childhood communicable disease. Other sources have also recommended applying a small amount of vinegar to the warm water that you will use when engaging in the daily cleaning of your child's skin. Doing this helps to maintain good hygiene, in general, and will also help to avoid those secondary infections.
Whether the person with chickenpox is an adult, or a child, the medical community has become accustomed to using a medication called hydrocortisone in order to help relieve the symptoms of chickenpox. Children and/or their parents and care givers should be sure not to put this, or any lotion or cream, on their face and especially not near their eyes. Doing so is contraindicated on the medication tab, and is strongly advised against. In the event that any foreign cream, lotion, or substance gets into the patient's eyes, in general, in should immediately be flushed out with liberal amounts of water beginning from the inner part of the eye and draining downward to the more lateral side of the eye.
Of course, because most people have been exposed to chickenpox while they are young, the prognosis is generally good. Rarely does chickenpox, unfortunately, become a fatal disease. The typical course of this disease comes, and goes, with young children rarely even remembering it as they grow older. Unfortunately, utmost care must be taken especially if chickenpox begins to manifest itself in a person who already has their immune system compromised. Whether these people have HIV or AIDS, or are pregnant, all effort should be made to really limit one's exposure to this disease in whatever ways possible. It is recommended that these populations, which are otherwise called "at risk" populations, be treated with anti-retroviral mediations, like acyclovir, just like is recommended for young children within 24 hours of rash manifestation onset.
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