What is Chickenpox – here’s an overview.
Chickenpox – it’s something nearly all of us remember getting when we were kids and then go on to worry about
when we have our kids.
Chickenpox is highly contagious and a very common childhood disease. It is more than often described as one of
the "classic" children’s diseases as so many of us suffer from it during our childhood.
But, chickenpox is not just a “childhood disease”. Adults can also catch chickenpox if
they did not have the disease when they were young.
Information provided in one “history of medicine book”, Giovanni Filippo (1510 - 80) of Palermo gave the first
description of varicella (chicken pox).
In the 1600s, Richard Morton, an English physician, described what he thought was a mild form of smallpox as
"chicken pox". In 1767, an English physician named William Heberden, demonstrated that chicken pox was different
Many possible explanations arise for the origin of the name chickenpox. For starters, the blisters on
the skin made it look as though the skin had been pecked by chickens.
I feel the simplest explanation is presented by Samuel Johnson; he said the disease was "no very great danger"
so it was described as a "chicken" version of the pox. Hence the name chickenpox.
Symptoms chickenpox sufferers are most likely to suffer are those of a general mild flu-like
condition. This would include headache, fever, stomach ache, and also a loss of appetite, along with hundreds of
itchy, fluid-filled blisters that burst and form crusts.
These blisters mainly affect the face, arms, legs, torso, and scalp – in other words most of the body.
Chickenpox is caused by the varicella-zoster virus (VZV), also known as human herpes
virus 3 (HHV-3), which is a member of the herpes family and is known to cause herpes
zoster (shingles) in adults.
Chickenpox is usually a fairly mild disease, but a range of serious and rare complications can result in some
odd cases. Some examples to watch out for could include encephalitis, Reye's syndrome, pneumonia, myocarditis, and
Medical treatment should be sought straight away if there is any sign whatsoever of these occurring.
Here’s something all mothers-to-be should be very aware of - chickenpox can cause some serious
complications for babies during pregnancy.
For a person with chickenpox; generally it is enough to keep the chickenpox sufferer comfortable while their own
bodies fight the illness.
Oatmeal baths in lukewarm water, regular applications of calamine lotion, antihistamine lotions, and topical
lotions will help ease the itching.
Although hard to resist at times there’s one really important thing to remember – don’t scratch the affected
areas as this can lead to further nasty complications.
Chickenpox is an airborne virus - this means it spreads via the air. As well, chickenpox can be spread by direct
contact, and it is highly contagious even before the rash appears.
So what happens, people often inadvertently spread the disease around before they even realise that they have
This is one of the main reasons why the disease spreads so quickly through children – years ago, when one kid
got chicken pox half the school ended up with it.
These days, the best way to avoid chickenpox is to be immunized against the disease. Fortunately, since the
chickenpox vaccine was introduced, it has been a far less common disease.
Nexr lets learn about Mumps.