Chickenpox was once considered a normal childhood disease. In the past, many parents intentionally exposed their children to chickenpox as toddlers so they'd be immune before they started school. Most people can recuperate from the disease without treatment, but unfortunately nearly 100 people each year died and more than 10,000 suffered symptoms so severe they had to be hospitalised. Chickenpox is extremely contagious, so anyone who has it should stay home and away from others until all of the symptoms have disappeared. Today a safe vaccine is available.
The most obvious symptom of chickenpox is an all-over rash that looks similar to mosquito bites during the initial stage of the breakout. In some cases, this rash can erupt into blisters that open and eventually form a crust. The rash can spread over the body, even in the throat, eyes, nose and genital area.
Some people experience only the rash, but many suffer from a fever. The fever may last a few days or even up to a week. If it goes over 38.9 degrees C or 38.8 degrees C, let your doctor know.
Often chickenpox is accompanied by a headache. If the headache lasts longer than a few days, contact your doctor, who may want to ensure there are no complications.
Loss of Appetite, Nausea or Stomach Ache
Occasionally, the first symptom of oncoming chickenpox is abdominal distress in the form of nausea or a stomach ache. This may last throughout the illness, or it may subside shortly after the rash appears.
Cough and Sore Throat
A dry cough and sore throat often accompany chickenpox, because the disease may affect the respiratory system and throat. The doctor may be able to prescribe something to prevent further irritation from coughing.
Generally chickenpox is mild and will go away on its own. However, those with weak immune systems may experience complications. If a sufferer has a fever that lasts longer than the rash, if the rash spreads to the eyes, or if the rash gets very warm and tender, see the doctor because these symptoms may indicate a secondary infection that needs to be treated. Other symptoms that need attention are vomiting, stiff neck, tremors, shortness of breath, dizziness or a rapid heart beat. Approximately 20 per cent of people who have had chickenpox will develop shingles later in life.