Chicken Pox
by Catie Elzie

Description of Chicken Pox

Chicken pox is characterized by red, itchy bumps on the skin. These bumps start out as small, pink spots that turn into blisters. These blisters cloud over and form scabs and eventually, in about four days, the scabs shrivel up and fall off. The places where the scabs were have pink dots that fade away after a few days. Most sufferers of chicken pox are usually children between the ages of two and six years old, although people of all ages can be infected. Babies six months old or younger seem to have a natural immunity to chicken pox.

Causes of Chicken Pox

The technical name of chicken pox is varicella. Chicken pox is caused by the varicella-zoster virus; varicella-zoster also causes herpes zoster. The virus is transmitted through airborne droplets and is highly contagious. The incubation period for chicken pox is two weeks and the sufferer is contagious for this time, even through there are no symptoms until 24 hours before the eruption of the pox.

Different Types of Chicken Pox

For the most part, there is only one form of chicken pox, but some children develop herpes zoster (shingles) as a reaction to the varicella virus.

Symptoms of Chicken Pox

The only symptom of chicken pox, other than the telltale red lesion, is a fever that occurs in the 24 hours before the eruption of the actual pox. The most obvious symptoms are the pox themselves; the sick person is contagious for only as long as new scabs are forming.

Diagnosis of Chicken Pox

Chicken pox is easily diagnosed once the pox appear, but it is a good idea to call a doctor and have the diagnosis confirmed.

Complications of Chicken Pox

Though complications are rare in chicken pox, there are two that might result. The most common is that the varicella-zoster virus will attach itself to a nerve ending and remain dormant for several years. If this happens, the person affected may experience a breakout of herpes zoster on one side of his or her body. In another, and very rare, complication, the sick person may develop Reyes syndrome. Reyes syndrome is a potentially fatal disease that affects the brain and internal organs. It is characterized by a disturbance of brain function, increased pressure on the brain, and the fatty degeneration of the liver and other internal organs. Medical help should be sought immediately is a person develops Reyes syndrome.

Treatment of Chicken Pox

There is not treatment or vaccine for chicken pox, although there are things to relieve the itching of the pox. Many times cold baths or Benadryl or Atarax are used.


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