Chickenpox is an infectious disease that appears after initial contact with the virus. It can appear at any time of life, but in more than 90% of cases it occurs before the age of 10 years. The risk of becoming infected is determined by having had the disease or not having been vaccinated, since once the disease has passed (or been vaccinated) immunity is maintained for the rest of life.
The contagiousness of chickenpox is very high, being considered one of the most easily transmissible infectious diseases, with rates above 90%. Diagnosis is clinical and is made by visualization of typical lesions. Treatment is with antipyretics and sometimes with antihistamines.
Vaccination should be carried out in the first years of life, just when it is most at risk, as it is a disease not exempt from complications and even death.
Currently, the recommendation of scientific societies is that the first dose of vaccine should be administered at 12-15 months, with a second dose spaced at least 4 weeks apart.
If we attend to public funding, in our country the first dose is administered since this 2016 at 15 months and the second dose at 4 years. This schedule, although it will considerably reduce the number of cases, does not prevent some varicella vaccination gaps or failures due to a single dose, since the second dose is not administered until more than two and a half years later. It is best to administer the two doses starting at 12 months of age, spacing them at least 4 weeks apart, thus fully immunizing the child and avoiding unnecessary risks.
How to act in case of chickenpox
In case of chickenpox, the first thing to do is to isolate the affected person, stop the child from attending kindergarten or school, and keep him/her under observation at home.
As the vesicular lesions are very pruritic (itchy), the temptation to scratch is enormous, therefore, to avoid permanent sequelae secondary to scratching, antihistamines should be administered. In case of malaise or fever, antipyretics can be administered, always avoiding the administration of Aspirin due to the risk of hepatic failure. Avoid topical painkillers such as talquistine, as they can favor the superinfection of the lesions.
Sometimes antiseptics such as copper sulfate or zinc sulfate are used, which will help to dry the lesions, but their use should be prescribed and administered according to the pediatrician’s recommendation.
In addition, contact with pregnant women should be avoided because they are a population at risk of severe varicella for the mother and especially for the fetus.