Friday, February 17, 2012

Coping With Chickenpox Naturally: How to Ease the Itch

I know we've been focusing on vaccines this week, but in case you've decided to go the natural route, and let your child's immune system do its job on the chickenpox, here are some tips for keeping your sanity, and keeping your child as comfortable as possible, throughout the process.

Česky: Puchýř neštovic - časné stádium English...Image via WikipediaOne of the oldest recorded childhood diseases is chickenpox. Just about every kid is exposed to it at one time or another. Here are some ways to control one of the most unbearable of its symptoms – itching.

Chickenpox is caused by the varicella-zoster virus. It usually occurs in children. You may notice an itchy red rash that occurs all over the body and the face. These bumps are usually spread over the body through scratching of the rash and then touching unaffected areas.

If you look closely, the red bumps resemble pimples. They are filled with clear fluid that turns cloudy. When they eventually pop, they crust and produce scabs as they dry out.

Symptoms of Chickenpox

Those with chickenpox notice the rash and itching more than anything else. But, there are other symptoms that children may feel such as fever, sore throat, headache or abdominal pain before the rash shows up. In rare cases, chickenpox can lead to serious bacterial or viral infections that affect the brain, joints and bones.

Chickenpox is highly contagious. Parents usually expose other children if one child has it so that they will all suffer together and then it’s over. If your child has it, don’t let them go to school as they can pass the virus to others until the bumps pop and scab over. This can take about a week.

Stopping the Itch

Chickenpox can be both itchy and painful. Chickenpox can become that much more unbearable when the itching begins. Scratching seems to bring some relief but then the pain starts from all that rubbing and scratching. Kids and parents are miserable as they endure the five or seven days it takes for the condition to run its course. Here are some ideas to stem that itch and keep your child cool and comfortable.

chickenpoxchickenpox (Photo credit: hopeandmegan)* Use calamine lotion – This works for other itchy rashes like poison ivy by drying out the skin. Rubbing your child down with it can provide temporary relief from pain and itch.

* Take antihistamines – The itching is a result of the body’s reaction to the disease. It releases histamine which leads to the itching. Over-the-counter medications can block the release of histamine so you feel less itchy over time.

* Oatmeal baths – This is an old but a good remedy for chickenpox itch. Fill a tub with cool, but not cold water. Hot water can increase the pain and itch. Fill the tub with baking soda and oatmeal. If you have it, use pre-packaged colloidal oatmeal remedies. Allow your child to soak for about 15 minutes until they feel better.

* Use socks on the hands – It will be hard to keep kids from scratching when they itch. Placing mittens or socks on the hands prevents damage from being done to the skin that will hurt later on.

Although chickenpox is no fun, getting through it is just a part of childhood for many. (I remember my own experience as unpleasant, but not terrible. I got out of chores for a few days, and read several great books, while coating myself in baking soda and water paste to calm the itch.) Hopefully these tips will help you and your child come through it with as little discomfort as possible. And if the rash continues to worsen after the first few days, or continues longer than 7 days, be sure to consult your doctor.

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