By Gulrukh Tausif
“Mom, is it normal to have spots on the stomach like these ones?”
When my 15 year old son asked me this question almost two weeks ago, bashfully lifting his shirt, I must admit my heart went a little pitter-patter.
I had heard about a spike in chickenpox cases especially in Faisalabad but one does not relate to bad news till it comes visiting your own home.
Also, since my children had all received chickenpox vaccine when they were young, I felt them to be on the safe side. But I was proven wrong.
A previous encounter with this contagious disease enabled me to recognize the spots on my son’s stomach. I realized that he had indeed been infected. As I live in a house which is populated by adults, teenagers, a pre-teen and a toddler, images of fever, rashes and sickbeds swam before my eyes. But this was not the time to swoon or feel faint so I immediately took my son to his own room and quarantined him.
A quick search on the Internet told me that chicken pox is highly communicable. The disease is spread by direct contact with the patient’s blisters and by coughing and sneezing. Initially the rash might look like pimples or insect bites. Then they develop into fluid filled blisters. These blisters then crust over and turn into dark scabs. Though chickenpox is a common disease among children, the virus has a much more severe affect on the adults.
Though I did not want to scare myself with the list of possible complications, I feel it is always best to be as well informed as possible. In the list of possible complications were listed ear infections as well as pneumonia and inflammation of the brain (encephalitis) in rare cases.
Other extremely rare and life threatening complications were also listed such as inflammation of the heart muscle, kidney, liver, pancreas, arthritis and inflammation of parts of the eye. So chickenpox is not something that should ever be taken lightly. The most vulnerable people are the infants, pregnant women and the sick or the elderly with weak immune system.
My son soon developed fever and had a red, itchy rash that spread on his abdomen, back, neck and then to nearly all parts of the body. He felt very uncomfortable and itchy so we took him to the doctor. He was prescribed calamine lotion, panadol for fever and an antihistamine.
My bigger concern at that point was to stop the other members of my family from contracting this disease so I separated a set of crockery, a pair of towels and sheets for my son’s use. I made sure that any plates, spoons and bowls that he used were kept separated and not washed in the kitchen sink. Instead they were washed in the area reserved for washing of the clothes. From there they were returned to his room immediately. Similarly all his clothes, towels are sheets were also washed separately with liberal doses of Dettol and dried in sunlight.
My son’s fever abated in a day or two but he had trouble sleeping because of itchiness. I was also apprehensive that he might scratch the blisters which will not only leave scars on him but can also cause secondary infection.
We again researched the Internet and found a great many home remedies. Many seemed too messy and some were vetoed by my son. The most feasible home remedy that we found was the use of apple cider vinegar to relieve skin irritation, help heal the lesions and prevent scarring.
The website suggested simply adding one-half cup of apple cider vinegar to lukewarm bathwater, and soaking in the bath for about 10 to 15 minutes. We bought a portable swimming pool for our son, as he is too tall to fit in a normal bathtub. Every day, he would fill the swimming pool, pour about a cup of ACV in it and soak and it really helped him tremendously. Alhamdulillah, within five days, his worst rash was over and he is now back to school.
Some other tips to follow:
A multivitamin should be taken by the patient as well as lots of fresh fruits as Vitamin c boosts the immune system.
Keep the patient comfortably cool as sweating increases itching.
Wash patient’s clothes, sheets and pillow cover regularly. The caregiver should also wash hands and face regularly.
Reputable medical websites recommend that chickenpox patients should not be given ibuprofen, aspirin or other non-steroidal anti-inflammatory drugs (NSAIDs) as these may increase the risk of developing serious complications. For fever, Panadol or Tylenol should be administered
Since the patient is already in an uncomfortable state because of rash and itchiness, do not impose home remedies that make him even more agitated.
It is also very important not to let myths and superstitions regarding this disease stop you from seeking medical advice for the patient. Placing black spots on forehead to ward off evil, tying beaded bracelets around patients’ wrists or not letting the patient eat properly to starve disease or not allowing the patient to take a bath for days are some common superstitions that are still followed today.
Please understand that none of the above information can be substitute for any medical advice. Each child’s case and reaction to a disease can be very different. However, the right diet, cleanliness, strict adherence to rule of hygiene, such as keeping nails short, washing hands frequently and drying clothes in sunlight as well as seeking proper medical care can minimize the spread of the disease.
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