You’ve clocked that your little monster is slightly under the weather, so you do the usual Mam thing and pretty much ignore them (they’re always full of snot and coughs and colds aren’t they?) But then, alas, you notice the spots.
“It can’t be!” you cry inwardly, hoping and praying that this is not ‘IT’, the dreaded pox. You’ve got things to do, a busy life being Mam, you do not have time for THE POX. You frantically Google images of children with chicken pox, desperately trying to persuade yourself that your child has something else. Perhaps it’s just hand foot and mouth, or insect bites… The denial lasts a few hours, perhaps a day or two if you’re lucky, but you eventually accept that your time has come. The pox has hit and so you now find yourself wondering how on earth you are going to cope with it. Fear not, I have put together a handy chicken pox survival guide, which may at the very least, make the oncoming days slightly more bearable.
- Paracetamol (such as Calpol®) – it doesn’t matter if they don’t necessarily have a high temperature. In my house, if anybody is under the weather they are dosed up on Calpol. It always makes them feel a little better, and will at the very least take the edge of the pain that the spots may be causing. Please remember you mustn’t use Ibuprofen in a child with chicken pox as this can result in serious skin infections.
- Soothe – Your poor little one will probably be feeling rather uncomfortable. In terms of helping this, my advice is to go with anything that takes the itch and discomfort away for them, even if just for a short while. People swear by different things here, as Doctors we tend to recommend the classic Calamine lotion and I’ve also heard good things anecdotally about Poxclin Mousse from friends.
A bit of trial and error may be required to find out which they find most soothing, but given that you probably won’t be leaving the house much over the coming days you’ll have plenty of time for this. There’s also the good old ‘Oat Bath’ old wives tale, although there isn’t much medical evidence for this one, I know people swear by it, and when it comes to the pox I am very much in the “give anything a go” boat.
3. Cool or luke warm baths (with or without oats) – these are generally also felt to be a win for a bit of symptomatic relief. Make sure you pat your little one dry when they get out though, rather than giving them the usual rub down, so as not to irritate the lesions. Dressing them afterwards in loose cotton clothing will also help them feel a little more comfortable.
4. Anti-histamines – If itching and scratching is an issue, giving your child anti-histamines may be really helpful. You can buy Piriton syrup over the counter. As with all medicines, remember to follow the dosing instructions carefully.
5. Fluids – as with any illness, children tend to go off their food and drink when they have chicken pox, especially if they have spots in their mouth which can be very sore. The food can be given a miss for a day or two, however it is super important to make sure that they stay hydrated. If your little one isn’t eating, I tend to suggest giving them a bit of a sugary or fruity drink rather than plain water if they’ll take it, so that they keep up their sugar/salt levels. Ice lollies are also usually a hit and are a sneaky way of getting some additional fluid into your grumpy spotty monster.
6. Distraction – Be prepared to have a miserable, fed up child on your hands. It is generally advised to stay at home whilst your child is in the contagious stage of chicken pox (i.e. before the spots have crusted over) and this may result in a serious case of cabin fever all round.
I distinctly remember having chicken pox as a child. My twin sister and I were 5 years old and had been devastated to miss our first Christmas Nativity play (the world would never see our outstanding performances as Lamb #1 and Lamb #2). However, I do vividly remember the absolute treat of having Mam get all the ‘play doh’ out of her locked cupboard (she hated the stuff) to cheer us up, and it almost made missing the nativity play worthwhile.
Anyway, the moral of this story being – your little one is going to be even more fed up than you are, distraction is key (especially to stop them scratching those pesky spots!) Let them watch Cyw, Paw Patrol and Peppa Pig marathons, get the play doh out, do some baking and generally try and keep them amused until the whole thing blows over
When to seek further advice?
All joking aside, although chicken pox is usually mild and resolves within a week or so, it can have serious complications, especially for pregnant women or those who have a weakened immune system. Until the spots are scabbed over, avoid going out to public places (you don’t know who might be expecting or who might be undergoing chemotherapy).
If you are Pregnant and have come into contact with chicken pox, or have symptoms of chicken pox yourself, speak to your GP or Midwife urgently as you may need treatment.
If your child is less than a month old, or has other health problems, speak to your GP if they develop signs of chicken pox, they too might need some extra treatment.
Chicken pox is often dismissed as a mild illness and although is usually is, it can very occasionally result in serious complications such as pneumonia and meningitis. If you are worried about your child at any point, NHS Direct or your GP will always be happy to help.
By Dr Laura