Homeopaths believe that childhood infectious diseases are not necessarily a bad thing. They provide children the opportunity to develop resistance and strength, and to clear inherited weaknesses. Often theses diseases precede developmental milestones (physical, mental or both) and a child who is able to cope with them as naturally as possible, will be laying the foundation for a healthy maturity and strong, illness free adulthood.
Babies are born with temporary protection or immunity from the infectious diseases that you have had, passed on via the placenta. Adding to this immunity is the colostrum in breastmilk, providing protection for what was originally thought to be approximately three months. Recent studies however indicate that breastfed babies are protected for much longer – until their own immune system develops at around 6 months. It is advisable to breastfeed for as long as possible, but even if you do decide to bottle feed, breastfeeding for the first few weeks is beneficial. Your baby will get the full benefits of this protective colostrum.
So many parents ask me about the signs, symptoms, incubation, communicability, longevity and recuperation of common childhood diseases. This article is designed to give you a brief run down of Chicken Pox. I have also included some tips to see you through them more easily.
Incubation period: 7-21 days
Infectious Period: From a few days before the onset of symptoms, until the last spot or blister has dried and formed a scab. It is advisable to keep the affected child away from other children for seven days after the onset of the rash (the crusts are not infectious).
Cause: Herpes Zoster Virus – a highly contagious and volatile virus that is found in the child’s’ blood and the contents of the vesicles during eruption of these blisters. Infection in most cases is by direct droplet spray but articles of clothing can remain infectious for a long time. Sometimes a healthy intermediary, who does not and will not display the typical symptoms of the disease, can carry and subsequently pass on the virus. The infection is contagious from within an hour of the first contact with a carrier, making it difficult to control and easy to spread.
Description & Symptoms: Chickenpox or Varicella as it is otherwise known, is an acute infectious disease characterised by a rash which appears in crops of spots, which then form vesicles (blisters) and disappears within three to seven days after the vesicles burst and scabs form. It is an extremely common infection affecting infants and children, during all seasons of the year, most commonly in the spring. It is uncommon in children above the age of ten years. Chickenpox is generally very mild in babies, some only acquire a couple of spots, the younger the patient, usually the less severe the symptoms. The onset of the disease is usually sudden with a slight fever and simultaneous appearance of the eruptions, which range in size from a pinhead to the size of a lentil. In rarer cases vomiting may accompany. The spots are scattered and rapidly develop into vesicles containing a clear fluid. The eruptions first appear on the torso (chest, abdomen, back and genitals), then onto the limbs and face – tending to be more prominent on covered parts of the body than exposed. In severe cases, eruptions spread to the mucous membranes, such as inside the mouth and throat, nasal passages, inner ears, conjunctiva of the eyes, soles of the feet and palms of the hands. Like all other vesicles on the body, they too will burst and can lead to ulceration, making eating and swallowing difficult. The vesiculation stage (where the blisters burst), is usually complete within 24 hours, giving the appearance of translucent droplets on the skin. The presence of an areola (red ring) around the lesions varies amongst individuals. The severity of the disease is judged by the number of pox. The scabs usually disappear with ten days, but can take up to three weeks. A return to normal skin tone may take up to 6 weeks.
- Don’t be too concerned about adult relatives or friends getting shingles (herpes zoster), from your chickenpox affected child, as this is rare, although a similar virus. It is more likely for the opposite to occur – a child acquiring chickenpox from a shingles affected adult (I know this from personal experience!), suggesting that the two diseases are different manifestations of the same viral infection.
- I have seen a direct correlation in 99% of my Chronic Fatigue/Glandular Fever/Ross River Fever patients, that they either have not had chickenpox in childhood and go on to get it in adulthood (usually after the onset of the above mentioned condition), or get it a second time in adulthood. This leads me to believe even more so, that childhood chickenpox is a good thing. Could it be possible that by not having childhood chickenpox makes the individual more susceptible to chronic viral infections and autoimmune conditions?
- Due to the itchiness of the eruptions, infection of them is the most common effect, caused by rubbing and scratching, causing the lesions to become larger and more inflamed?
- Other, more severe effects, while rare include laryngitis, bronchitis or nephritis.
- Vaccination for chickenpox has recently become available (1995). Unlike other infectious diseases, it was slow to develop as chickenpox is rarely life threatening and its initial occurrence leads to natural immunisation, preventing future recurrences. The duration of protection from the vaccine is still unknown however as previously mentioned, early childhood encounters are usually uneventful and more beneficial than later exposure where symptoms are more likely to be severe and problematic. As with all vaccines do your research.
- Anti-Viral Drugs, such as acyclovir (Zoviarx) are recommended by GP’s in serious cases of chickenpox. This medication is used to treat genital herpes and cold sores. The drug can reduce symptoms of chickenpox, however, parents should research its side effects as it can lead to liver damage.
- Corticosteroids (cortisone) may also be used to treat chickenpox but also have potentially serious adverse effects. These drugs work to stop itching by suppressing the immune system; however the best defence against the disease is the immune system itself. Cortisone has been linked to one death in a chickenpox case, prescribed for an eye infection during the disease. The drug suppressed the immune system to such an extent that it could not fight the disease itself.
- Antihistamines are prescribed when sleep is disturbed by itching. While safer than corticosteroids, they do have undesirable side effects.
- Paracetamol can be given to reduce a fever that accompanies symptoms. Questions have been asked about the use of such medications in fevers that are a standard part of the course of the disease and are manageable by other means. In a study conducted to ascertain the effectiveness of drugs during chickenpox, patients were given either a placebo or paracetamol for four days. On the second day, placebo patients were less active than their paracetamol counterparts, however on the forth day, the paracetamol children itched more and their lesions took a day longer to scab over. This suggested that a fever, like in most cases of disease, was more beneficial in combating the virus when allowed to run its course.
- Homeopathic treatment is very effective, especially if the spots are very itchy or take a long time to heal. Healing speed can be significantly accelerated by Homeopathic treatment. Common remedies used include Rhus Tox, Pulsatilla, Belladonna and Sulphur. Preventive protection can be obtained by consulting a Homeopath. Whilst this is more a long term schedule of protection, development of the disease can be halted with the Chickenpox nosode Varicella and/or Rhus Tox when contact with an infected carrier has been made. You will need to consult a professional Homeopath as soon as possible for such treatment to be effective.
- Chickweed cream/ointment is an excellent natural alternative to apply to itchy spots than calamine lotion or Pinetarsol bathing.
- Dab diluted cider vinegar (1 tablespoon per 500ml of water) too very itchy spots, or half a cup in a tepid bath and soak the child as long or as often as it helps. Bicarbonate of soda can be substituted for cider vinegar if unavailable (same ratio of dilutions).
- Dress the child in loose cotton clothing to prevent further irritation.
- Cut the child’s fingernails or use mitts on the hands to prevent scratching, which will eventually cause scaring.
- If scratching or possible scarring does occur, apply rosehip oil (rich in vitamin C) or vitamin E oil to the affected spots once the scabs have fallen off.
- Seek professional help if:
- The spots become badly infected or inflamed e.g. there is redness and swelling around them and/or there is pus oozing from them.
- The itching is so severe it is not alleviated by the above self help measures or home Homeopathic prescribing.
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