Chickenpox in kids – help is at hand
This year, the easing of COVID restrictions and kids mixing freely caused cases of chickenpox among children to rise across the UK. Not necessarily a bad thing, given that it’s a fairly mild illness that most of us will only ever get once.
But there’s no doubt it can be unpleasant, says Dr Kenny Livingstone of ZoomDoc.
‘Chickenpox can make kids feel pretty unwell and uncomfortable – on rare occasions it can lead to complications.’
For parents, it can also be hugely disruptive as kids need time off nursery or school until spots crust over and they’re no longer contagious to others. Not to mention if chickenpox appears before or during a family holiday and you can’t travel, or worse – get stuck abroad.
From key symptoms to look out for, to knowing what to do when kids do get it, here’s what you need to know about chickenpox in children …
What exactly is chickenpox?
The NHS describes it as a ‘common’ virus that ‘mostly affects children, but you can get it at any age.’ It’s best known for its rash that starts as red spots that develop into itchy blisters before crusting over to form scabs.
How to treat chickenpox in kids
There’s no need to treat chickenpox unless your child feels unwell or needs relief from the itchiness.
‘Keeping them hydrated and using age-appropriate paracetamol can help with discomfort. Never use ibuprofen for chickenpox as it can make symptoms worse or cause infections,’ says Dr Kenny Livingstone.
Over-the-counter soothing products can be helpful for taking away the itch, although many experts no longer recommend calamine lotion, which can dry out the skin and make things worse.
How long does chickenpox take to get better?
Most kids are better within a week or two but remember that even if they feel fine, they’re still contagious while fresh spots are appearing.
NHS advice says to keep kids off school or nursery ‘until all the spots have formed a scab, which is usually 5 days after the spots appeared.’
Remember that chickenpox is highly infectious and is likely to infect others in your household – particularly siblings who’ve not yet had it. Spots can break out up to three weeks after being in contact with someone with chickenpox.
Is there a vaccine to stop kids getting chickenpox?
Other countries such as the US do vaccinate children in order to prevent them getting chickenpox in the first place.
In the UK, this vaccine is only available privately and costs around £75 for each of the two doses required.
Flying with chickenpox – what are the rules for chickenpox and holidays?
If your child comes down with chickenpox just before you’re about to jet off on holiday, what should you do?
Although different airlines have slightly different rules about it, the general consensus is you won’t be able to fly until the spots have crusted over and you’ll also need an official ‘fit to fly’ letter from a doctor.
The same rules apply if chickenpox breaks out during your holiday meaning you could end up stuck abroad.
But panic not …
First of all, check with your airline and travel insurance as you’ll need to move or cancel your flight.
Then once your child’s spots have crusted over, it couldn’t be easier to organise a ‘fit to fly’ letter, via ZoomDoc’s speedy online service.
Here’s how it works:
Simply click here to get a chickenpox recovery letter. You can access it from home or abroad and it takes minutes to do.
Once you’ve ordered the letter, you’ll need to upload a 30-second video of your child’s face, neck and arms, showing the spots that have fully scabbed over. These will be verified by a team of ZoomDoc doctors.
If they’re confident the child is no longer contagious with chickenpox they’ll issue a formal letter saying so.
The letter costs just £35 and saves you making further calls or waiting for an appointment to see a doctor, either near you or in another country.
Please make sure you also have this information available:
- A photo/image of your passport.
- When the chickenpox started and confirmation that you are now well.
- Your airline and flight details.
What if the chickenpox aren’t fully crusted over yet?
If you use the ‘chickenpox recovery letter’ service on ZoomDoc but doctors discover the spots aren’t scabbed over properly yet, don’t worry.
They’ll issue a letter confirming it’s chickenpox but that the patient is not ‘fit to fly’ yet. Although that may not be what you hoped for, it’ll be helpful for your travel insurance or for help with rebooking your flight.
Find more ‘fit to fly’ letters, certificates and other options, here.