The virus responsible for causing chicken pox is spread through the air as well as direct contact, so one child can give it to another by sneezing or coughing, or by mucus, fluid or saliva contact. Chicken pox contagiousness begins two days before the rash initially appears and will continue until all of the blisters in the rash have completely crusted over. Chicken pox is severely contagious. Most children who have it will give it to their siblings, as well as friends and class mates before the rash even begins to appear. Beginning to treat it and quarantining the child with chicken pox is essential before it spreads too far.
The contagiousness of chicken pox is one of the most prevalent complications, since a single child with chicken pox can give it to dozens of others before the rash begins to appear. There are many people who are especially susceptible to chicken pox who may be at risk for further complications, such as women who are pregnant and anyone who has an immune system problem. Children who have immune system issues or other health issues may have additional complications due to chicken pox as well, which is why prompt treatment is so essential.
Chicken pox typically begins with a headache, fever, a sore throat or stomach ache. These initial symptoms will typically last for two to three days coupled with a fever ranging from 101 to 103 Fahrenheit. After approximately two to three days, the chicken pox rash will begin to appear, causing a red and itchy blistered appearance. It typically begins on the face, back or abdomen, and then spreads across the body including hands and feet, legs and arms, genitals, mouth and scalp. The rash may initially appear as pimples or bug bites before spreading to fluid-filled blistering.
Because of the appearance of chicken pox and the symptoms that come with the rash, most physicians can diagnose simply by examining the child. If there is any question about whether or not the blisters are in fact chicken pox, then the physician may withdraw fluid from one of the blisters and run the sample under a microscope, or may use other procedures such as blood testing and throat culture testing to nail down a determinant diagnosis.
Doctors may prescribe antibiotic medications if the chicken pox sores become infected with bacteria, which is quite common in children because of their tendency to scratch and pick at the chicken pox blisters. Children who are at risk of developing complications may need to take an antiviral medication, but this depends on the discretion of the treating physician. Typically treatment for chicken pox involves quarantine, rest, plenty of fluids and treatment for the individual symptoms. Children are urged not to scratch the blisters, as this can cause them to spread and to become infected further, prolonging the healing process.