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What are the Signs of Chickenpox in Babies?

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  • Written By: wiseGEEK Writer
  • Edited By: O. Wallace
  • Last Modified Date: 16 October 2018
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Chickenpox in babies implies several different scenarios. The term, babies, isn’t always strictly defined and could mean anything from newborn to children up to the age of two. Strict definition of this term is needed because problems with this virus can be minimal to serious, depending on when and how the baby contracts it. Virus signs and degree of illness depend on the timing. Of most concern is varicella-zoster virus contracted from the mother during the last few days of pregnancy, causing newborn chickenpox. Least concerning is chickenpox that occurs a little later in healthy babies or toddlers.

Generally, chickenpox in babies up to the age of one isn’t common. A mother with immunity temporarily transfers some of her immunity to the child. This gradually declines in the first year or two, but immunity tends to mean that if chickenpox in babies occurs, it’s fairly mild. The first few signs could be mild fever, irritability, slight nasal congestion, headache, and cough, which are followed in a day or two by development of a rash. The rash changes into fluid filled blisters before scabbing over. The whole illness lasts about 10-14 days, and a child is contagious until complete scabbing of the rash occurs.

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It’s not unusual for chickenpox in babies and toddlers to exhibit a fairly mild rash if the mother is immune. Sometimes it’s completely missed because children only have one or two pox that aren’t discovered. When a mother is not immune, the rash may be more obvious, and often is most evident in areas where skin gets skin irritated easily, like the diaper area.

Rash can affect many other areas of the body. Provided the child is not a newborn and doesn’t have rash in the eyes, evidence of infection of the rash, or a compromised immune system, the disease usually simply runs its course. Doctors typically want to examine babies to rule out complications, and parents should report rash infection or fever that exceeds 102 degrees F (38.89 C).

The situation is very different if chickenpox is directly contracted from the mother in the last few days of pregnancy or right after it. The illness is treated before the baby has any symptoms by giving varicella zoster immune globulin, which can prevent disease contraction. If, in spite of this, the disease develops, doctors help the newborn fight the condition with treatments of antiviral medications. While chickenpox in babies of older ages tends to be fairly mild, in newborns the risk of developing life-threatening complications is higher. Mothers need to inform their children’s doctors if they get this illness right after giving birth or if they have it before going into labor.

Similarly, chickenpox contracted during the early part of pregnancy may cause birth defects. This is a matter that needs attention, and it makes good sense for women without chickenpox immunity to avoid anyone with the illness. Preparing in advance for pregnancy by getting a varicella zoster vaccine is also advised.

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Wisedly33
Post 2

@Scrbblchick -- If that's true, then I should be in the clear. I had the absolute worst case of chickenpox. My mom worked in a doctor's office and she said it was the worst case she'd seen in a child who wasn't in the hospital. She had to wash my hair twice a day because of the scabs. It was horrible.

I even had a lesion in the back of my throat. I couldn't swallow and I was in abject misery. I cried in my sleep because my throat hurt so much. So I ought to be good for avoiding shingles, then.

I've never heard of a bad case of chickenpox in babies. I've even heard of babies having a single blister, a mild fever and that's it.

Scrbblchick
Post 1

In the days before the chickenpox vaccine, a friend of mine told me she had it when she was about two. Her case was very, very mild. She had been in a pediatric hospital and probably caught it there.

She's a good example of what I've heard: that people who have very mild cases of chickenpox are more apt to get shingles later on. Well, she had a round with shingles before she turned 40, and then had another bout with them about two years later. Her doctor said that was unusual, but it could happen. She had some neuralgia afterward. She has places on her back that still burn occasionally.

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