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Chickenpox – our experience

Another month, another post about common pre-school illnesses from me. If you’re searching for tips on chickenpox symptoms, how to soothe chickenpox covered babies, and things to do when your baby had chickenpox, this post might be for you.

Tibbs was the 21st out of 23 children under three at her nursery to get chickenpox this Summer. That means around one-third of the total kids at her nursery got it this time round, and since it opened in January, that’s the third round there’s been.

This confirms two things. Firstly, that chickenpox is very, very common amongst children, and secondly, that it is very infectious. The NHS themselves confirms – if you’ve not had chickenpox, and you’ve been in the same room as somebody with it, then nine out of ten people would catch it. It’s spread by saliva and airborne cough and sneeze droplets landing on objects that others may then touch, contaminate their hands, then put their own hands near their mouth or nose. Adults can get it from children, but if you had it as a child, it’s unlikely you’ll catch it again, although it does happen.

About 2.5 weeks before Tibbs’ spots appeared, all the babies in her room at nursery, according to the staff, were intensely grumpy for several days. Lots of clingy behaviour, tiredness, sniffles and coughs. After that, some children got their first spot within days, but for us, the rash took around 18-20 days to appear, confirming that the incubation period is long, as is the period of infectiousness!

Up at 1am on the first night the spots appeared
Up at 1am on the first night the spots appeared

Anyway, here’s some tips that might be helpful to you if you think your child has been exposed to chickenpox or already has it:

  • Some spots are small, some are very big indeed. They multiply fast and come in clumps and waves. You think they’re all out, and then you spot another clump somewhere else
  • For us, the very worst crop was on our daughter’s genitals and bottom. It looks appalling, and obviously feels a lot worse due to the heat and moistness of nappies. Try and give them as much time as you can without a nappy on
  • Spots can also occur in the mouth and on the lips and tongue which are sore and cause loss of appetite. Lots of cold drinks and non-sugary ice lollies are a great idea here
  • Being in warm water is very soothing during the itchy stage. Tibbs spent a lot of time sitting in my kitchen sink playing with stacking cups and straws. It really kept her calm
  • If you go out during the worst of the spots, and you really shouldn’t if you can help it, people will stare and some will take dramatic tactics to avoid you and your pram. This is pretty justified, chickenpox can be dangerous especially to the elderly or pregnant women. It rained for most of our infected period and I found it very hard and depressing being in the house all the time. We took a lot of walks at times of the day that wouldn’t have us meeting lots of other kids
  • Don’t be surprised if, once the spots come out, aside from the itching, your child may not feel ill at all. In fact, this is what is hard, you’re in the house, and entertaining them isn’t just a case of CBeebies and cuddles. We invested in crafts, made a few dens, practiced our walking, etc
  • Soothing the itching is really difficult. Aqueous calamine lotion was ok. The best tip I was given involved filling a sock full of porridge oats and adding it to the bath, squishing and squeezing it until the milky, sticky goodness fills the water. This worked wonders, as did using the sock as a flannel on the baby, who found the jelly-like emissions really pleasant on her sore bits
  • There’ll be a couple of nights early on where you’ll need to keep the Calpol and Ibuprofen close to hand, as feverish sleep is guaranteed

Four weeks since infection and many of the spots and scabs are a memory, with just a few large ones still to leave her hair. You shouldn’t pick them off, you see, no matter how tempting. Nursery considered her non-infectious once the spots had hardened and flattened. All three of us were delighted when she was allowed to return. It was a difficult week off work (we shared days off and worked from home).

You will, of course, get through it, it’s considered a mild childhood condition although you should consult your GP if your gut tells you the spots or the fever are causing serious distress to your little one.

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  1. Lots of people have been saying their little ones have got chickenpox at the moment – Ben is almost six and hasn’t had it yet, so I’m dreading it when he does! Great tips – I’ll bookmark this for when the time comes!

  2. poor little thing, F still hasn’t had it and now he’s getting older I think I might consider just giving him the vaccine as I had it when I was 19 and it was horrific 🙁 Great tips though, thanks for sharing. x

  3. Most of Wilf’s nursery class got it and his best pal but he didn’t! I was really annoyed as I’d rather he got it other with then get it later when it can sometimes feel much worse. I remember my little sister just white with cream to stop her itching! x

  4. My middle child had a really severe case of chicken pox which was horrible to see (she had them on the soles of her feet, in her mouth and the corners of her eyes….everywhere) and now, age 5 she’s got scars on her face from it 🙁 I’m dreading my youngest getting it…

  5. Oh blimey – poor you guys! Great tips though. We’ve not had it, yet, but will consult you when it inevitably happens. I vaguely remember my mum taking my brother to a chicken pox party when he was younger, as all the mums wanted their children to catch it (seems like a weirdly 80’s thing to do).

  6. oh no! chicken pox sucks. i had it at christmas one year ..i think i was 7 or so. i had a scar on my face from it for a couple years, too. the porridge oats tips is great!

  7. Wow you seemed to get through it okay. We had a terrible time, it hit the little man so hard that he stopped breathing at one point due to exhaustion and pain (he had open sores everywhere across his body and couldn’t lie down to sleep) it ended up with him having a big does of antihistamines to calm the skin and swelling and it ended up being a rather scary time for us, but I do think it was an exception to the rule as most children get on with it fairly well

    Laura x

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