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Answers to common chickenpox questions

Before the chickenpox vaccine was licensed for use in the United States in 1995, about 4 million people contracted the disease each year with up to 200,000 developing complications, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.

What kind of virus is it?
According to U.S. National Library of Medicine, chickenpox is caused by the varicella-zoster virus (VZV) and is highly contagious. However, if your child is generally healthy, chickenpox should not be serious for them.

How is it contracted?
If you have never had chickenpox or your child has never had it or been vaccinated for it, then your child is at risk. Babies whose mothers have been vaccinated are usually protected by the antibodies the child receives at birth, so chickenpox is not as much of a threat.

How is it spread?
The virus spreads very easily. One of the ways to contract the virus is by being near another child who, while infected, coughs or sneezes. Sharing of drinking and eating utensils can, of course, cause the virus to be transferred as well.

Touching the blisters of an infected child will also cause the disease to be passed along. Because of the risk of spreading, children should not return to school until the blisters are dry. An infected individual can be contagious up to two days before the blisters appear on their skin, and will remain contagious until the blisters have completely dried.

What are the first signs of infection?
Fever, headache or sore throat may be the first indications that something is wrong. Your child will develop an itchy rash usually no later than two weeks after exposure with new red spots developing for the next five to seven days.

What are the treatment options?
Treatment involves rest, medicine to reduce fever and moisturizers or an oat meal bath to reduce itching. Trim your child's nails or make them wear gloves to prevent them from scratching, which can cause scarring.

How can I prevent chickenpox?
First and foremost, talk to your Charlotte pediatrician about having your child vaccinated. The CDC encourages that children should begin their round of vaccinations between 12 and 15 months of age. There are a select few who should not receive the vaccination, always consult your physician.


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