Ezra had been unusually tearful and slightly feverish the night before and by morning, we noticed a small crop of spots on his thighs, stomach and back. Other than being quite listless that day, and more spots appearing on the second and third days, Ezra seemed fine.
On the chemist’s recommendation, I drenched him in calamine lotion. At night while he slept I cut his fingernails to the quick. We taught him how to gently rub instead of claw at his body when the itch became unbearable.
From the minute we spotted (ahem) that Ezra had the pox, I was on alert for any signs on my youngest. After about a week went by and Jed remained unblemished, I felt confident that it had passed him by. So I went ahead and made travel plans, and also took Jed for some routine immunisations.
‘Has he been ill?’ the GP asked. ‘Only a slight runny nose,’ I replied. She checked he didn’t have a fever and gave him the shots.
Four days later, Jed came down with chicken pox. As a baby with less immunity, his case was much worse than Ezra’s and combined with what I suspect were side effects of the MMR injection, it was a pretty stressful week.
During this period his symptoms included fever (raging the first couple of nights), crying and irritability, diarrhoea, vomiting, loss of interest in food and sore blisters everywhere, especially in the groin area. He only wanted to nurse but I found a couple of spots in his mouth which made sucking sore. On top of everything, teething added to his misery.
Luckily more than 10 days later he’s finally recovering, so I thought I’d share what I learned while desperately scanning the internet, reading books and visiting the doctor for a final check-up after his fever returned (probably the teething again).
How do I know it’s chicken pox?
Chicken pox looks like small red spots that turn into fluid-filled blisters that eventually scab over. The spots are raised, phenomenally itchy and can appear anywhere, even scalp and inside mouth. Your pharmacist or even your child’s nursery should recognise the signs but if you’re still unsure, do check with your GP.
How long should I keep my child home?
Chicken pox is very infectious and can be spread from two days before any signs until the last spot has scabbed over. The incubation period lasts anything from one or two weeks to 21 days. Chicken pox is normally mild in kids but can be dangerous for newborns and pregnant women.
What first steps should I take?
Clip your child’s nails (easiest while they’re sleeping). If your little one’s very young, scratch mitts are helpful. Dress them in loose, light clothing – preferably long sleeved to reduce temptation to scratch.
What can I do to provide relief?
For fever, good old paracetamol or Ibuprofen for kids – I found the latter more effective pain relief. Some people swear by antihistamines but do NOT give Piriton to a child under 12 months old.
And for itching?
Calamine lotion is tried and tested but it’s messy to apply and doesn’t provide lasting relief. These days you can get Calamine gel or a Calamine Aqueous cream that might be more effective. I use Aqueous cream on my boys for bathing and skincare daily and I’m sure this helped as neither of the boys seemed particularly scratchy.
For Jed’s case, the GP prescribed Dermol 500, an aqueous cream with antimicrobial properties.
What about alternative remedies?
Care Virasoothe is a soothing gel made specifically to treat chicken pox, suitable from 6 months
Some mums swear by long, cooling baths with bicarbonate of soda added to help soothe the skin
Other suggested home treatments include applying honey or brown vinegar to the skin
Vitamin E oil can be helpful for skin healing and scars
When should I call the doctor?
If your baby is under 4 weeks old
If fever higher than 39 degrees persists longer than two days
If your baby shows signs of chest pain or breathing difficulty
If the spots become pus-filled, yellow or show other signs of infection
If you or anybody in your household is pregnant or has a weakened immune system
Any other tips?
Don’t forget to warn visitors that you’ve had a chicken pox outbreak. Not everybody has had it, and it’s especially bad for adults. You can get chicken pox again although it’s extremely rare. The virus lies dormant in your system and can crop up again as shingles. But you can’t catch shingles from someone with chicken pox.
NHS Chicken Pox Info