Chickenpox

Chickenpox_thumbnail.pngChickenpox is very common. It is caused by a virus called varicella. If your child has been in contact with someone who has chickenpox it can take 2 to 3 weeks for them to develop the rash. Children can pass the virus to others from the day before the rash appears until the last spot has scabbed over. Your child may also have a temperature, a cough and a runny nose.

Chickenpox starts with red bumps that become small, yellowish blisters. The spots can affect the whole body including the mouth and genitals (which can be very painful). They then open before scabbing over.

 

 

Visit the NHS website for more pictures of how the rash develops


Most children with chickenpox can be looked after at home and do not need to see a doctor. If your newborn baby or child with a weak immune system (for example due to cancer treatment, immunosuppressive treatment or genetic immunodeficiency) catches chickenpox then you should contact a doctor.

If your child has any of the following:

  • Blue lips
  • Too breathless to drink, eat or talk
  • Pale, mottled and feels abnormally cold to touch
  • Extremely agitated, confused or very lethargic (difficult to wake)
  • Severe headache, neck stiffness or balance problems
  • Has a fit or seizure
  • Has a rash that does not look like chickenpox and does not disappear with pressure (the ‘Glass Test’)

You need urgent help.

Go to the nearest Hospital Emergency (A&E) Department or phone 999

If your child has any of the following:

  • Your baby is less than 4 weeks old
  • Has rapid breathing or they are working hard to breathe. Drawing in of the muscles below their lower ribs, at their neck or between their ribs (recession)
  • Increasing pain and redness spreading between the spots
  • New spots appearing after 7 days
  • Temperatures for more than 5 days
  • Seems dehydrated (sunken eyes, drowsy, not had a wee for 12 hours)
  • Rash spreading to the eyes
  • Has extreme shivering or complains of muscle pain
  • Is getting worse or if you are worried
  • Contact with a pregnant woman who has not previously had chickenpox, person with a weakened immune system who has not previously had chickenpox or a newborn baby (the contact should seek advice from a healthcare professional)

You need to contact a doctor or nurse today

Please ring your GP surgery or call NHS 111

We recognise that during COVID, at peak times, access to a health care professional may be delayed. If symptoms persist for 4 hours or more and you have not been able to speak to either a member of staff from your GP practice or to NHS 111 staff, then consider taking them to your nearest A&E

If none of the above are present:
  • Care for your child at home
  • Give your child plenty to drink 
  • Avoid nursery or school for 5 days from the onset of the rash or until all the spots have fully scabbed over
  • Speak to your local community pharmacist for advice 

Self care

 If you are still concerned about your child, speak to your health visitorlocal pharmacist or call NHS 111

Children and young people who are unwell and have a high temperature should stay at home. 

What can you do to help your child?

It can be upsetting to see your child unwell with chickenpox. While treatment of the virus itself is not usually needed, there are simple things you can do to make your child more comfortable:

  • Paracetamol for a high temperature or pain
  • Antihistamines (for example piriton) can help with itching and sleep
  • Plenty to drink
  • Try ice lollies or jelly if your child is not drinking much
  • Try an oat bath. Put a handful of porridge oats in a small cloth bag or a sock. Tie it at the top and place this in their bath
  • Pat dry after bath rather than rubbing
  • Dress in loose clothes
  • Avoid scratching. Keep nails short or apply hand mittens at night to reduce damage to the skin
  • Don’t give ibuprofen unless advised to by a doctor
  • Speak to your local community pharmacist for advice on what can help with itching

How long does it last?

  • Usually the last spot crusts over 5 to 7 days after the rash first appears
  • It is easily passed to other people until spots have dried and scabbed over
  • Avoid nursery or school for 5 days from the start of the rash or until all spots are fully scabbed over
  • Avoid contact with newborn babies
  • Avoid contact with pregnant women (unless they have already had chickenpox) and people with a weakened immune system
  • Now that your child has had chickenpox, they will usually be immune for life. The virus lives in the body forever (in the nerve roots) and may come back at some point in life as shingles. You cannot catch shingles from chickenpox. 

The chickenpox vaccine

The vaccine is given to help stop your child catching chickenpox. It is not part of the standard vaccine programme but is offered to children who are at increased risk of severe chickenpox infection and to those with a family member at risk of complications. It is also available privately through travel clinics and pharmacies and costs between £120-£200. More information is available here.

Where should you seek help?

You can treat your child's very minor illnesses and injuries at home.

Some illnesses can be treated in your own home with support and advice from the services listed when required, using the recommended medicines and getting plenty of rest.

Sound advice

Children can recover from illness quickly but also can become more poorly quickly; it is important to seek further advice if a child's condition gets worse.

For information on common childhood illnesses go to What is wrong with my child?

All community pharmacies across England are required to be Healthy Living Pharmacies. This means that they are able to offer advice about a range of healthy living matters which includes eating a healthy diet. They can provide information leaflets and give parents/carers and young people more information about other organisations that might be able to also help them with healthy eating.

Pharmacists are experts in many aspects of healthcare and can offer advice on a wide range of long-term conditions and common illnesses such as coughs, colds and stomach upsets. You don’t need an appointment and many have private consultation areas, so they are a good first port of call. Your pharmacist will say if you need further medical attention.

Sound advice

  1. Visit a pharmacy if your child is ill, but does not need to see a GP.
  2. Remember that if your child's condition gets worse, you should seek further medical advice immediately.
  3. Help your child to understand - watch this video with them about going to the pharmacy.

For information on common childhood illnesses go to What is wrong with my child?

Health visitors are nurses or midwives who are passionate about promoting healthy lifestyles and preventing illness through the delivery of the Healthy Child Programme. They work with you through your pregnancy up until your child is ready to start school.

Health Visitors can also make referrals for you to other health professionals for example hearing or vision concerns, or to the Community Paediatricians, or the child and adolescent mental health services.

 

Contact your local Health Visiting Team:

Bradford Health Visitors or call - 01274 221223

Wakefield Health Visitors or call - 0300 373 0944

Craven Health Visitors or call - 01423 544265

Leeds Health Visitors or call - 0113 843 5683

Calderdale Health Visitors or call - 030 0304 5555 (local rate number)

Kirklees Health Visitors or call - 030 0304 5555 (local rate number)

Sound advice

Health visitors also provide advice, support and guidance in caring for your child, including:

  • Breastfeeding, weaning and healthy eating
  • Exercise, hygiene and safety
  • Your child’s growth and development
  • Emotional health and wellbeing, including postnatal depression
  • Safety in the home
  • Stopping smoking
  • Contraception and sexual health
  • Sleep and behaviour management (including temper tantrums!)
  • Toilet training
  • Minor illnesses

For more information about what Health Visitors do: What does a health visitor do?

School nurses care for children and young people, aged 5-19, and their families, to ensure their health needs are supported within their school and community. They work closely with education staff and other agencies to support parents, carers and the children and young people, with physical and/or emotional health needs.

 

Contacting the School Nurse

Primary and secondary schools have an allocated school nurse – telephone your child’s school to ask for the contact details of your named school nurse.

There is also a specialist nurse who works with families who choose to educate their children at home.

Contact your local school nursing team:

Bradford School Nurses01274 221203

Wakefield School Nurses (0 to 19 service)0300 373 0944 (local rate number)

Leeds School Nurses - 0113 843 5683

Calderdale School Nurses030 3330 9974 (local rate number)

Kirklees School Nurses0300 304 5555 (local rate number)

Sound Advice

Before your child starts school your health visitor will meet with the school nursing team to transfer their care to the school nursing service. The school nursing team consists of a school nursing lead, specialist public health practitioners and school health staff nurses.

They all have a role in preventing disease and promoting health and wellbeing, by:-

  • encouraging healthier lifestyles
  • offering immunisations
  • giving information, advice and support to children, young people and their families
  • supporting children with complex health needs

Each member of the team has links with many other professionals who also work with children including community paediatricians, child and adolescent mental health teams, health visitors and speech and language therapists. The school health nursing service also forms part of the multi-agency services for children, young people and families where there are child protection or safeguarding issues.

GPs assess, treat and manage a whole range of health problems. They also provide health education, give vaccinations and carry out simple surgical procedures. Your GP will arrange a referral to a hospital specialist should you need it.

All children should be registered with a GP. Anyone in England can register for free with a GP surgery. You do not need proof of address or immigration status, ID or an NHS number.

How to find your local GP.

Sound advice

You have a choice of service:

  1. Doctors/GPs can treat many illnesses that do not warrant a visit to A&E.
  2. Help your child to understand – watch this video with them about visiting the GP or going to a walk in centre

For information on common childhood illnesses go to What is wrong with my child?

If you’re not sure which NHS service you need, call 111. An adviser will ask you questions to assess your symptoms and then give you the advice you need, or direct you straightaway to the best service for you in your area.

Please note, the online version of NHS 111 is only recommended for children over the age of five. If your child is under five years old, please phone 111.

NHS 111 can also direct you to your nearest urgent treatment centre (minor injuries unit or walk-in centre).

Find your local urgent treatment centre.

When to visit an urgent treatment centre.

Sound advice

Use NHS 111 if you are unsure what to do next, have any questions about a condition or treatment or require information about local health services.

For information on common childhood illnesses go to What is wrong with my child?

A&E departments provide vital care for life-threatening emergencies, such as:

  • loss of consciousness
  • breathing difficulties
  • severe bleeding that cannot be stopped
  • major trauma such as road traffic collisions

If you’re not sure it’s an emergency, call 111 for advice.

Sound advice

  1. Many visits to A&E and calls to 999 could be resolved by any other NHS services.
  2. If your child's condition is not critical, choose another service to get them the best possible treatment.
  3. Help your child to understand – watch this video with them about going to A&E or riding in an ambulance