Chicken Pox, Not Just for Kids
If you mom didnít take you over to someoneís house whose kid had the chicken pox, so you would get chicken pox, you probably have heard of that happening to someone else. It is generally believed there are fewer risks to children who get chicken pox than to adults who get chicken pox. This is actually true. Between advances in medical care and the chicken pox vaccine, there are less hospitalizations and deaths from chicken pox. Chicken pox is caused by the varicella zoster virus (VZV).
Chicken pox is most contagious before the symptoms appear, which is why it seems to spread through a school, day care, or family so quickly. The symptoms include the following:
For adults and children, chicken pox is diagnosed by the symptoms. Unless there are other health issues, chicken pox can be treated at home. The medication for those at risk of developing complications from chicken pox is called acyclovir. It must be given within the first 24 hours of when the rash first appears.
For adults who know they have been exposed to the chicken pox (varicella zoster) virus, they may be tested to check for immunity to the virus. If they are not immune to the virus because they have not had chicken pox or have not been vaccinated, they may be given the varicella (chicken pox) vaccine between 3-5 days after exposure. This may reduce the severity of the symptoms and may even prevent chicken pox symptoms.
Adults are at more of a risk for complication from being infected with the chicken pox virus than children. Of all chicken pox cases, about 5% are adult cases of chicken pox. Of the total hospitalizations from chicken pox, about 33% are adults and 55% of deaths from chicken pox complications are adults who got chicken pox.
Common complications include the following:
Serious, but less common complications:
Adults with compromised immune systems are more likely to have complications.
A person starts being contagious 1-2 days before the rash starts and continues to be contagious until all blisters have scabbed over. The virus is spread through the air and also by direct contact.
Usually the only treatment needed is to keep the person comfortable. Putting lotion on the blisters, soothing baths, and fever treatment can do this. The worse will be over in ten days after the onset of the rash. To prevent scarring, it is important not to scratch the blisters or pick at the scabs.
The best way to prevent getting chicken pox or any other illness is to have a strong immune system. If you are exposed to chicken pox and feel you are at risk for complications, contact your primary health care provider.
Back to Chicken Pox Age Groups.