Whether your young child has recently obtained chickenpox, or another family member or a friend's child that lives right down the street from you, you may be wondering what is chicken pox exactly. While chickenpox is really quite simple in its disease progression and treatment, complications can certainly arise if the exposed child, or adult, is not cared for in the proper manner.
So, without further a due, you came here to figure out what is chicken pox and, as a registered nurse, fortunately, I do have that answer for you. Chickenpox is essentially a viral infection that results from one's exposure to the varicella-zoster virus (VZV). Most individuals usually only have one episode of chickenpox which typically occurs while they are very young. Many times, the effected individual will be so young that they probably won't even remember the disease progression of chickenpox when they get older. While they may have some family pictures, or video, of themselves with chickenpox, rarely will they remember the occurrence of this disease or any ensuing pain or discomfort.
While the internet is flooded with images of young children with chickenpox, it really can be quite a deceiving disease in a appearance and manifestation. Viewing these images may scare you into thinking that this disease is worse than it really is; however, chickenpox is typically experienced by most people, sometime during their lives. Even though one can get chickenpox as a child, or as an adult, the symptoms are usually milder when they occur in a child, which is why sometimes it is just preferred to obtain chickenpox, gain immunity, only to never have to really deal with it again. The interruptions to your work obligations and schedules can really be quite extensive so, for this reason, sometimes it is easier just to contract chickenpox while one is young.
Symptoms of chickenpox can definitely vary dependent on whether it is affecting a child or an adult. Generally, it will initially cause a red rash that is very itchy. This rash can typically be observed first within the trunk region of one's body, rather than extended to the extremities like your hands and feet. While chickenpox will eventually spread to those regions, it is most common that it begin either on your back, abdomen, or face, which are generally your core body regions.
Secondly in the progression of chickenpox will come the gradual transformation of these subtle red rashes into tiny, red bumps. These bumps actually tend to resemble acne, or bug/insect bites. From there, those bumps develop into pustules, or thin-walled blisters with fluid contained within them. Throughout this stage of chickenpox disease progression, it is imperative that one not scratch their own skin. Whether you are a child, or an adult, with chickenpox, this intense desire to scratch will be an ever-present temptation that you must withstand from doing. Fortunately, there are treatments available, like caladryl, or calamine lotion, which can help to alleviate the redness of these blisters, as well as, your intense desire to scratch.
Generally, scratching is frowned upon in the medical community because of the serious complications that can arise from prolonged intense and vigorous scratching. Significant impaired skin integrity may occur, and may inherently lend itself to a secondary infection that invades your skin. Remember, your skin is ultimately your first major barrier of protection, therefore, it should be protected, even if it means applying measures to ensure that you resist the urge to scratch your chickenpox rash, or blisters, vigorously.
As a natural part of the chickenpox disease progression, these blisters will naturally break open on their own, which will lead to open sores on your body. Draining fluid may be present but it should not cause you significant concern because this will be part of the healing process. Once these blisters have broken open, these lesions will be completely open and exposed which require your adherence to contact precautions. While in a hospital setting, contact precautions are simply precaution you, your family and friends, as well as the registered nurse and other healthcare professionals, should take in order to ensure that the disease of chickenpox isn't passed on. While most people generally expect to one day have chickenpox and emerge from it successfully, a real problem can be had if a person with a compromised immune system comes in contact with one with chickenpox.
For this reason, if you have a family member with HIV or AIDS, or a variety of other diseases that affect the body's natural immune system, they should really keep their distance and dawn protective equipment. The course of the disease of chickenpox really doesn't take that long to overcome, so, the time spent away from the person who has contracted chickenpox may not be so bad; of course, this is dependent on the persons who are affected. Had a young child's brother had chickenpox, while he had a compromised immune system, this scenario should really be avoided, so as to protect both individuals involved.
Of course, with each stage of chickenpox, one can expect there to be different clinical manifestations of varying signs and symptoms. While some may experience these more intensely, others may not. Accompanying their blister development and progression, some children may actually experience symptoms like headache and abdominal pain long before their rash even appears (a day or two before, usually). Once again, most concern should be had over children who have compromised immune systems; however, complications can arise in just about anyone who has chickenpox, like the development of a skin infection around the area on their body where their blisters are congregated.
Shingles is another disease that is oftentimes explained in conjunction with chickenpox for a variety of reasons. Most importantly, however, is one's tendency to develop shingles, especially if they had chickenpox while they were a child. It has been said that up to 20% of children who have experienced an onset of childhood chickenpox are actually prone to getting shingles later in their life. While the symptoms of chickenpox can be addressed from a few different angles, as far as easing discomfort and pain relief, typically anti-retroviral medications, like acyclovir, are used in the treatment of both chickenpox and shingles.
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