Our house has been rocked with the silently infectious and rampant chickenpox. Without debating the merits of the chickenpox vaccine that is now widely offered in the USA, I’ll just say that this vaccine is not part of the NHS inoculation plan so neither of our children had been vaccinated.
After a friend’s son came down with chickenpox two days after a play date so we suspected we’d have it in our house imminently as it’s apparently infectious 2-3 days before the first spots appear and then until they are all fully scabbed over. Ahh all the fun facts you learn as a mama when you need to.
I also learned that the incubation period 2-3 weeks so you just carry on as normal until those first spots strike. Somewhat surprisingly, LLC didn’t come down with it from exposure to her friend but LMM did. I say somewhat as LMM touches everything and sucks his fingers like no tomorrow. But then again chickenpox is airborne so I would have thought both would have been exposed after a few hours of playing. Anyway.
Fast forward two weeks and I noticed three raised spots in LMM’s diaper area and one on the side of his head. I suspected this was the start of it and I was right. Three days later his body was decorated, even though they were initially slow to appear. I wasn’t sure how he would cope being so young, but he was a little trooper and managed to get through his poxy week with no fever or other complications and minimal fuss. I realized that he didn’t yet know how to scratch, a small advantage to getting chickenpox when you are so little I guess.
After LMM I knew it would be a wonder if LLC escaped unscathed and sure enough, about 1.5 weeks after LMM’s first spots came out I noticed one solitary mark on her shoulder. Again it took about three days for her to become covered. I think her case is a bit worse (and read this can be true with a prolonged exposure) and her pretty little face and torso particularly are riddled with angry red pustules. If we didn’t know more that this illness is quite common and rarely serious, I’d be more worried with the way it looks. While LLC is also being a cooperative patient with minimal scratching, yesterday she had a fever and seemed more unlike herself as the illness peaked. Thankfully we are now on the road to recovery.
For people who go out pretty much every day, it’s been difficult being housebound for the best part of two weeks and we’re all climbing the walls! The whole affair has also coincided with the end of my maternity leave and start of part-time work….I’ve only properly been out one day this past week to go into the office. By yesterday I was really needing a breather from it all so booked one by way Neal’s Yard massage but my addled head somehow managed to book the appointment in London Bridge rather than at my local NY treatment room. I nearly cried when I rocked up to discover my error. I was totally gutted. Thankfully the London Bridge therapist was incredibly understanding.
Anyhow, for anyone else in a similar situation, this is how we coped with chickenpox in a toddler and baby in our house:
- Combination of Piriton (antihistamine) and Calpol (paracetemol). The Piriton to reduce the itching and the Calpol for fever. They can be safely taken at the same time. Piriton says on the bottle it’s only safe for children over 1 and I didn’t use it on LMM but my friend’s sister, who is a GP, said you can use a tiny bit of it on babies. If LMM had really suffered I would have been inclined to ask my GP about this to get the right dosage.
- ViraSoothe Gel - It’s several pounds more expensive than calamine but not messy, easy to spread, dried quickly and also seemed to alleviate LLC’s itching. I also used it on some of LMM’s angry spots as it said you could use it from 6 months. It’s also meant to aid the recovery of the blistered spots. I was recommended aqueous calamine cream, though we didn’t use this as had the ViraSoothe. Interestingly the horribly messy calamine lotion we had as kids is now not widely recommended since it dries out the skin and can lead to secondary itching.
- Oatmeal bath – My mom suggested an oatmeal bath, again to alleviate the itching. Baking soda is also commonly recommended for this purpose but it can dry out your skin so I went with the oatmeal. You can blend up a fine powder of oatmeal and add it to the bath directly, but I just put roughly half a cup of oatmeal in an old sock and squeezed it under the running tap until the bath took on a cloudy / milky appearance. Both kids loved this.
- Distraction – Think up an arsenal of things to do (if your child is up to it) to try to make staying indoors for a week fun. Heheh! We’ve built forts, baked, had tea parties galore, read through the bookshelf and watched far more TV and DVDs than usual. We’ve also been out in the yard for fresh air, which we all really needed.
Have your children had chickenpox and how did you cope?