(Last Updated on : 12/02/2014)
Chicken Pox is one of the most widespread viral diseases in India. It is mainly caused due to the Varicella-Zoster Virus (VZV), and the disease is also known as Laghu Masurika. It is most common among children, especially among those aged between 1-10 years. It was once considered as the deadliest disease in India, as it used to cause numerous deaths. However, the disease is quite under control now-a-days, as vaccine has been invented and is being given to the children to prevent chicken pox.
Apart from the main reason VZV, there are also many other causes behind the development of chicken pox. Age is a major factor and considered as a potential cause of chicken pox. Usually, children aged less than 10 years are more vulnerable to developing chicken pox. Almost all children can get laghu masurika before they enter into adulthood. Some infants can also get laghu masurika, when they are weaned from breast milk. The adults, who have a sensitive skin that rash easily, are also likely to get laghu masurika. Bubble baths with strong soaps can be another cause behind the development of chicken pox. Weather changes like late winter or early spring is the most common time when the VZV is spread.
Chicken pox can be identified through various signs and symptoms. Though, chicken pox is basically a mild illness, it can affect the infants, teens, adults, and people with weak immune systems, more severely. Some people can also develop serious bacterial infections involving the skin, lungs, bones, joints, and the brain (encephalitis), due to chicken pox. The children with normal and healthy immune systems are also likely to occasionally develop complications, most commonly a skin infection near the blisters.
The main symptom of chicken pox is an itchy rash of spots that look like blisters and appear all over the body. The rash may be accompanied by flu-like symptoms. The itchy rash usually appears first on the abdomen or back or face and then goes on to spread almost everywhere on the body. It can be found on the scalp, mouth, nose, ears, and genitals. In the initial period, the rash appears like multiple small, red bumps that look like pimples or insect bites. The other symptoms of chicken pox like fever, abdominal pain, sore throat, or a vague sick feeling can be seen in some kids, generally a day or 2 before the rash appears. The symptoms of chicken pox are usually milder and the blisters are fewer among the younger kids, compared to the older children or adults. The symptoms of chicken pox usually disappear without any treatment. However, generally a chicken pox-affected person is advised to stay at home and rest until the symptoms are gone.
Chicken pox is a highly contagious disease. It generally remains contagious from about 2 days before the rash appears, till all the blisters are crusted over. A child affected with chicken pox is advised to stay back home and not to play with other children, as it can affect those unaffected children. Most children, who have chicken pox-affected sibling, are likely to get affected by the disease as well. Usually, the symptoms appear about 2 weeks after the first child does.
Chicken pox can be treated following different methods of medication. Apart from the conventional treatment, the alternative therapies like Ayurveda, Mind/Body Medicine, Homeopathy, Acupuncture, Herbs, etc. are also used for treatment of chicken pox. The disease is treated through water treatments, different home remedies, aromatherapy, magnetic therapy, etc. as well. The main objective of alternative treatment of chicken pox is to lessen the discomfort and fever caused by chickenpox. Generally, cool or lukewarm baths are suggested, with rolled oats in the bath water, for getting relief from itching. Other remedies like applying aloe vera, witch hazel, or herbal preparations of rosemary (Rosmarinus officinalis) and calendula (Calendual officinalis) to the blisters, are also prescribed in alternative medicine. In the ancient treatment method of Homoeopathy, the medicines like Antimonium tartaricum, Antimonium crudum, Apis mellifica, Belladonna, Bryonia, Mercurius solubilis, Pulsatilla, Rhus toxicodendron, Sulphur, Urtica urens, etc. are used most commonly for treatment of chicken pox. These medicines are applied on a case by case basis.
However, there are many preventive actions that can be taken to ward off the chance of getting chicken pox. The chicken pox vaccine, named varicella is given to the children when they are 12 to 15 months old and they are also given a booster shot when they are 4 to 6 years old. The vaccine is available since 1995 and has yielded impressive results in treatment of chicken pox. However, in spite of the vaccine's incredible success rate, some immunised kids still get chickenpox.
Apart from Vaccination, there are other preventive actions that can help in averting chicken pox. The people, who have never had chicken pox or the vaccine, are advised to avoid contact with chicken pox-affected people, especially with the skin lesions of the affected person. The capsaicin cream (from cayenne pepper) is also helpful in preventing post-herpetic neuralgia, which is a possible complication from shingles, caused by the same VZV.
Though, chicken pox was considered a deadly disease in India a few centuries ago, it is not so in modern times. The disease has been controlled quite successfully and death due to chicken pox is a very rare incidence, in today's India.