Chicken Pox In Babies: Causes, Prevention And Vaccination

chicken pox in babies

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Chicken pox is the most dreaded, yet an inevitable part of childhood. The rashes and the associated uneasiness are hard to bear even for an adult. So, imagine if that comes to a baby. The little one does not know what is happening to him, he cannot express his pain and therefore, gets cranky and refuses to feed. For a parent, can anything be more painful than this?

Though babies less than six months are less likely to get infected, it is good to know as much as possible about chicken pox, if you have a baby at home. MomJunction tells you why chicken pox happens, how you can identify the infection and what you can do to treat the problem.

What Is Chickenpox?

Chickenpox or varicella, as it is known medically, is a viral infection that causes fluid filled blisters or rashes that first appear on the stomach, face, and back and then spread throughout the body. The blisters are usually accompanied by high fever and lethargy.

In most cases, chickenpox cures on its own, but in extreme cases, it can reach the liver or brain leading to severe complications. Also, it is a cause of concern if your baby is less than four weeks old or if the symptoms have not improved even after six days (1).

Causes Of Chickenpox In Babies:

Chicken pox is caused due to the varicella-zoster virus, which infects mostly children aged three months to ten years old. It takes 14 to 16 days and even 21 days for the pustules to appear if the baby is exposed to the chickenpox virus. But the positive part is that the body produces proteins as antibodies in this state to fight against this virus. This works like an immunization for the lifetime.

Apart from the virus, chickenpox can also spread through direct contact with the infected person and through the air contaminated with the virus particles.

Symptoms Of Chickenpox:

The symptoms of chickenpox in babies are as followed:

  • Chickenpox initially starts with a mild fever, sore throat and body aches. After a couple of days, you might see the rash appearing on the torso and then spreading to the different parts of the body.
  • This rash slowly develops into blisters filled with fluid.
  • The rashes keep developing until a peak and start receding. The number of rashes on the body differs from baby to baby as some may have as many as 250 to 500 spots while some develop just a few spots.
  • Loss of appetite and difficulty in drinking breast milk or eating foods are the other symptoms of chickenpox.

In general, these rashes rarely cause any complication and fade on their own. But if you find the following signs associated with chicken pox in babies, then it might be a serious condition requiring medical intervention at the earliest:

  • Respiratory problems
  • Fits
  • Bleeding rashes
  • Unable to consume food
  • Excessive weakness
  • Becoming drowsy

How To Treat Chicken Pox In Babies?

The best thing you can do is to be with the baby as much as possible, soothing and helping him to be at ease. Your baby’s body will develop anti-bodies to treat this illness on its own. Meanwhile, remain calm and try the following ways to help your baby recover well:

1. Deal with the fever:

Almost all the babies develop mild to severe fever along with chicken pox rashes. Try to abate the fever so that there is less agony and pain. Ask your infant’s pediatrician for medicines that can reduce fever. Do not give your baby any medicine without consulting the doctor.

Also, allow some fresh air in the room or loosen his clothing to reduce the heat. Some also suggest giving cold compress to reduce the feverish heat.

2. Help them with the itch:

The rashes that develop in chicken pox can be itchy. Apply an antiseptic cream on the scabs. You can also use calamine lotion to soothe their itchy sensation.

3. Make them sleep:

It is necessary to have a good sleep during chickenpox to heal as fast as possible. But babies might find it difficult to sleep due to the rashes and fever. If your little one is unable to sleep, soothe him with breast milk or rock him to sleep.

4. Keep them clean and hygienic:

The baby might want to touch or scratch the rash. Make him avoid such things, and also keep his hands always clean so that he doesn’t touch the rashes and then put his fingers in his mouth. Also, cut his nails short to prevent him from scratching the rash.

5. Keep the clothing comfortable:

Your baby may refuse to wear clothes as the dress might rupture the rashes. Make him wear loose and airy clothes. Make sure that the fabric is soft and not harsh on the skin. Also, pick clothes that do not make them feel either too hot or cold.

6. Keep him hydrated:

Your baby could be dehydrated during an infection. Give your baby ample fluids, such as water, milk or juices depending on his age. If your child finds difficult to gulp down fluids due to fever, give him a paracetamol prescribed by the doctor to reduce the temperature first. You can try to feed him fluids after an hour.

How To Prevent Chicken Pox?

1. Vaccination:

Vaccination is the best way to prevent chickenpox (2). It’s safe and prevents chickenpox from occurring. Even if the vaccinated baby gets chicken, it’s often mild with just a few red spots or blisters.

2. Avoid meeting people with chickenpox:

As mentioned above, chickenpox is a highly contagious as it spreads through the air via coughing and sneezing. So, do not take your baby out to meet people with chicken pox nor allow the infected persons near your baby.

3. Disinfect the house and hands:

Disinfect the house to avoid any chickenpox infection. The natural disinfectants include lemon juice, white vinegar, salt, hydrogen peroxide and diluted bleach. And don’t just stop at the house. Disinfect your baby’s hands multiple times a day with soap or hand wash.

Irrespective all other precautions, vaccination is one sure way of keeping your baby safe from chicken pox. Read on to know why.

Why Should You Give Chicken Pox Vaccine To Your Baby?

The chickenpox vaccine is optional and not a part of essential immunization for children. But since the time vaccine was introduced almost two decades ago, the cases of hospitalization and complications due to chickenpox have reduced drastically.

The chicken pox (varicella) vaccine offers 98% protection from the disease. If in rare cases, the infection develops, it is rather mild.

Talk to the pediatrician to know when you can give the chickenpox vaccine to your baby.

When Do Babies Get Chicken Pox Vaccine?

The chickenpox vaccine consists of two doses, administered years apart. The varicella vaccine schedule for babies is as follows:

  • The first dose must be administered when the babies are between 12 and 15 months of age (3).
  • The second dose must be given when the children are between the ages of four and six years. The second dose must be at least three months apart from the first dose so it can also be given at an earlier time.

Types Of Chickenpox Vaccine:

There are two types of chickenpox vaccines- MMRV and Varicella vaccine.

  • MMRV is the vaccine that is a combination of vaccinations for measles, mumps, and rubella and along with varicella. It is used for children who are over 12 months of age and under 12 years.
  • Varicella vaccine is only for immunization from chickenpox. It can be given to babies, older children, and adults alike (4).

Your pediatrician can guide you on the type of vaccine your baby should get.

Is Chicken Pox Vaccination For Babies Safe?

Yes, the chickenpox vaccine is safe for babies (5). Moreover, it is an effective preventive measure of the infection. The chickenpox vaccine originally contained gelatin. Therefore, people who are allergic to the substance couldn’t take the shot for chickenpox. But now it is available without gelatin.

But all vaccines can produce side effects. In the case of chickenpox vaccine, the side effects are rare.

Side Effects of Chicken Pox Vaccine In Babies:

In case your baby suffers from any of the below-mentioned side effects from the chickenpox vaccine, inform his doctor immediately:

  • Pain or swelling at the site of vaccination
  • Mild fever
  • Allergic reaction such as anaphylaxis to the vaccine
  • Seizure

Things To Remember When Vaccinating Your Baby For Chicken Pox:

Take care when you are getting your baby vaccinating:

  1. If you baby had an allergic reaction to his first shot, inform the doctor when the baby is due for the second dose. The allergic reaction can occur due to reasons other than gelatin allergy.
  1. Refrain from getting your child a chickenpox vaccination shot if he is sick.
  1. If your baby suffers from any immune system disorders, then he must not take the chickenpox vaccine.
  1. If your baby has had any blood transfusions, you must wait for at least five months before you can get him vaccinated against chickenpox infection.

There is more harm to your baby from the chickenpox than from the vaccination. There is also an argument that once a child contracts chickenpox, he is immune to the infection for all his life. Therefore, chickenpox vaccine may be unnecessary.

But there is no way to tell if the chickenpox rashes would be mild or severe. And there is always a risk of scarring and other side effects from chickenpox. Besides, if parents or adult caregivers are not immune to the disease, they can spread the virus to the baby.

Therefore, deal with the situation wisely and take the right steps for your baby.

Did your baby get vaccinated for chicken pox? Do share your experience and advice with us.

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  • The only thing my mom could find that helped my chicken pox when I was a kid (I had them down my throat) was an oatmeal bath and milkshakes. She caught me spitting into the waste basket in the living room, because it hurt to even swallow my saliva, and felt awful that there wasn’t a whole lot she could do about the pain.

  • momjunction

    Yes, agree with you.