Chickenpox is a viral disease caused by Varicella Zoster virus, also known as the Herpes Zoster virus. It is contagious and infections disease, and is common in children below 12 years of age. It is marked by itchy blister like spots all over the body and low-grade fever. It is not a life-threatening disease and can be completely cured. Although uncommon, it is more severe in adults than in children.
Chickenpox Found in Adults
Usually it is observed that adults develop chickenpox if they have not had it in childhood. Similarly, adults who were not vaccinated with the chickenpox vaccine in the past are also most likely to contract this viral disease. If a person has already suffered from it as a child, he becomes immune to the disease and does not contract it again, even if he is exposed to it (but, it is still advisable to stay away from people suffering from chickenpox). It is more common in young adults than in older people.
The symptoms of chickenpox in adults are similar to those in children. There are a few early symptoms that are seen 1 - 2 days before the growth of itchy blisters. They include:
- Low-grade fever
- Dry cough
- Sore throat
The incubation period for chickenpox virus is anywhere between 10 - 20 days. Chickenpox is highly contagious from the time spots appear on the person's body to the time they disappear completely. The general feeling of being unwell and weakness continues for 1 - 2 weeks. In case complications develop, the duration of chickenpox being contagious increases.
Shingles is the most common complication of chickenpox; and both these conditions are caused by the same virus. The person who has had chickenpox in the past is most likely to suffer from shingles later in his life. The virus causing both these diseases remains dormant in the person's body and reappears to cause shingles. Shingles is more common after 50 years of age. Secondly, if women suffer from chickenpox during pregnancy, there are high chances of developing congenital defects like abnormal brain development, shortened limbs and head, etc. in babies. Sometimes, if the person has a weakened immune system, other diseases like pneumonia can also develop.
You need to consult the doctor when you experience the general symptoms of chickenpox. Do not wait till all the spots appear. Most of the time, chickenpox goes away without any treatment. However, you can use some creams or lotions to soothe the itchiness and irritation on the skin. Although you may feel like scratching the spots, but it is advised not to do so as it can develop into a skin rash. You can put a cool towel on the itchy areas to get instant relief. The doctor may prescribe you medications for lowering the temperature. Pregnant women are given varicella zoster immune globulin (VZIG) for prevention of chickenpox during pregnancy. If a person experiences other symptoms like shortness of breath, trouble in walking or standing up, pus or bleeding blisters; he should immediately call the emergency service.
Vaccination is recommended for both, children as well as adults. If adults are not vaccinated in their childhood or have not contracted chickenpox; they should be vaccinated on a priority basis. One should also remember that as chickenpox is contagious, he should stay away from other people to prevent spread of disease.
Chickenpox can be completely cured if the symptoms are identified early, and complications are prevented.