Surviving the spots
Every year in New Zealand, 50,000 people get chicken pox, the vast majority of them young children. Here's how to cope.
Chicken pox (varicella zoster) is a common childhood illness, and is highly contagious, which is why it seems to spread through childcare centres and playgroups. It is spread from infected children by touching, coughing, sneezing, or coming into contact with the fluid from a chicken pox spot. Unfortunately, one of the reasons it's hard to avoid is that children with chicken pox can be infectious to others for a few days before the first spots appear (before their parents even know they have contracted it), and it can take from about a week to three weeks for the infection to show up after contact with the infected person. So a chance encounter in the mall playground with a pre-spotty child can suddenly plague your house three weeks later.
A child is considered contagious until all of the spots have shown themselves and crusted over to form scabs, which may take up to ten days. Most of the spots will be concentrated on the torso and face, as well as the chest, back, and upper arms, with less on the arms and legs. Unfortunately, chicken pox also appear in the ears, the mouth, and scalp, and it's very uncomfortable for little ones.
The chicken pox vaccine (either Varilix or Varivax are available in New Zealand), which can be given to children over the age of nine months, prevents chicken pox from being contracted in 95% of the people who get it. The only catch is that it's not on the annual vaccine schedule, but costing between $60-$90, it's not a great price to pay for peace of mind and protection.
If your child does contract chicken pox, here are some remedies that might help relieve their symptoms, or at least make them easier to bear!
Top row: Quintessence Calendular/Urica/Hypericum Cream $20 (www.qhealth.co.nz). Aveeno Soothing Bath Treatment Sachets $19.95. Quintessence Pox Drops $22. Weleda Combudoron Lotion $19.50.
Bottom row: Childlife Immulox Dietary Supplement $47 (www.qhealth.co.nz). Weleda Hypericum/Aurum Comp $18.90. Combudoron Cooling Gel $17.90