Chickenpox is caused by the same virus that causes herpes zoster. The virus is sometimes called varicella zoster, and mostly attacks skin and mucous membranes of the mouth and throat. Incubation lasts between 7 and 21 days.
The main (and often the first) symptom of chickenpox is a rash, i.e. a group of small, red, sometimes painful, fluid-filled bubbles on many parts of the body. After a few days the bubbles broke or dry out, after which are covered with scabs. They are accompanied by strong itching.
With a rash, the child may also have a slightly elevated temperature, although it generally does not look ill. Adults often experience symptoms similar to flu symptoms (see flu article) a few days before the rash develops. Children recover quickly – usually in 10 days or less – while in adults the recovery lasts longer.
Chickenpox are quite common disease in children, though not as common as measles, and rare in adults.
Dangerous complications are very rare, and one of them is encephalitis. If the baby scratches itself too much, the bubbles can be infected and fill with pus.
You can soothe the itching with liquid powder. If the bubbles in the mouth or on the eyes are painful, a doctor will prescribe a solution. Adults who feel flu-like symptoms must take soluble aspirin or paracetamol and follow the instructions on the pack.
Chickenpox is always a mild disease, so you can expect complete recovery and lifelong immunity.