Chickenpox is a contagious viral infection. It spreads through the air or via contact with the blisters on an affected individual. Even though it is a common condition, complications may occasionally arise. Avoiding these should be the main goal of both patient and doctor. Therefore, early detection is ideal. Knowing the initial signs of chickenpox is the key to catching it early.
Chickenpox may begin with a headache. This headache, however, may vary from person to person and may be accompanied by sensitivity to light. It usually worsens as the rash appears. Toddlers and individuals with low immunity are more prone to severe symptoms such as a headache. Sleepiness and confusion can also accompany a headache. However, these are all symptoms that should be evaluated.
People with chickenpox are likely to feel rundown and exhausted. Fatigue is one of the first signs of chickenpox, along with other flu-like symptoms. Exhaustion related to chickenpox is enough to interfere with work, school, and day-to-day life.
Fever as high as 102 degrees Fahrenheit may appear with chickenpox. This fever generally lasts one or two days and occurs at the onset of the disease. Fever is the immune system’s response to infection.
Almost all people with chickenpox complain about general aches and pains several days before the rash appears. Flu-like symptoms such as swollen glands, sore throat, fever, and nausea are also common. Within a few days, a rash appears, confirming chickenpox.
A few days before the rash appears, some people with chickenpox complain of loss of appetite accompanied by nausea. Antiviral medicines to treat the infection can also result in nausea. It’s uncommon to experience vomiting with chickenpox, and this should be evaluated if it occurs.
Loss of appetite is likely to occur due to nausea and upset stomach related to chickenpox and may cause reduced energy or weight loss. Drinking plenty of fluids is important to avoid dehydration. Eating bland food such as rice, toast, crackers, and bananas can also be helpful.
The most obvious sign of chickenpox is the rash. Within 10 to 21 days of exposure, a rash appears. Tiny clusters of red spots surface on the skin, usually appearing first on the chest and back. Soon after, the rash spreads to other parts of the body, including the legs, neck, face, groin, arms, and scalp. An infected person may have up to 500 spots within a few days. The virus is contagious up to 48 hours before the rash appears.
Shortly after the emergence of a chickenpox rash, blisters begin to develop on top of the rash. These blisters can be extremely itchy and may scar or become infected if a person scratches them open. Once opened, the blisters leak clear or yellow-colored fluid.
The final phase of chickenpox rash occurs when the blisters begin to dry out and scab over. The blisters open as a result of scratching or during the natural healing process. The crusts begin to dry out and heal within five to seven days for most people.
The stages of chickenpox rash may appear at different times over different parts of the body. Someone with chickenpox may have bumps, blisters, and scabs all at the same time. As the illness runs its course, the scabs heal as the bumps become blisters and the blisters scab over.