Chicken pox

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Updated: 4/11/2007 5:47 pm
Chicken pox, whose technical name is 'varicella' (var-uh-SELL-uh), is a common, highly-contagious disease usually contracted during childhood. Parents often deliberately expose their young children to chicken pox, so the children won't have it as adults, when it can be serious. The chicken pox vaccine received F-D-A approval in 1995 and is 70 to 90 percent effective in children. Chicken pox is caused by a virus that's a member of the herpes family, so you can only treat symptoms, not get rid of the virus. Chicken pox starts as a rash with small, red bumps that look like small insect bites. The bumps develop blisters, which burst and form scabs. It's important to keep children from scratching to prevent blisters from becoming infected, so wash their hands and trim their fingernails frequently. Treatment includes antihistamines, rest, and plenty of fluids. Other symptoms may be relieved by anti-itch lotions or creams, as well as soaking in a tub of baking soda or uncooked oatmeal. Although you can't get chicken pox more than once, some people do get another disease in adulthood known as 'shingles,' which is caused by a reactivation of the chicken pox virus. Shingles causes severe pain and a rash. For more information about chickenpox or shingles, contact a healthcare professional.
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