3 Children and 6 weeks of chickenpox: what I learned.

We miraculously made it through to my eldest being 5 with no chickenpox in the house. Plenty of spending time with children the day before they came out in spots, or children at pre-school with the pox. But no pox for us, and I started to feel suspicious that my children were pretty, pretty special. Maybe they were totally immune!  In fact they were most likely totally immune!

In November last year (whilst pregnant with our fourth baby and also under some fairly significant stress around my husband’s health) this theory was disproven in somewhat remarkable fashion.

Given that the incubation period for Chicken Pox is quite long – you can be exposed and then 2+ weeks come out in spots – my son came home a few weeks after the first cases in his class feeling a little feverish and, the next day, a spot on his back and one on his scalp. Over the course of the next few days – fewer than 20 spots appeared. Maybe fewer than 15.  Pretty small, only one properly inflamed spot (The “Mother” spot, as pharmacists refer to it, in a slightly Victorian tone). Chicken Pox is a breeze! I said! It’s a rite of passage! A dab of Virasoothe and you’re fine. The only frustrating part was spending 10 days cooped up inside with the three children while we were in the infectious stage…

I assumed the younger two would get the pox immediately, or perhaps a week or so later. But my eldest recovered, went back to school, and I stood at the school gate saying things like “Maybe the other two are totally immune! In fact they are most likely immune!”

Two weeks after the first round began, my middle child was a little feverish. Hmm. The next day, the ‘Mother’ spot arrived on her torso and within an hour, she had at least 20 very angry looking spots. I could count about 50 spots in that first ‘wave’ of spots – but as it turns out, they kept coming, in waves, and she ended up with at least 200 that I could count, and many that I couldn’t – in her ears, eyes, eyebrows, scalp, everywhere you can imagine. She was so uncomfortable, her eyes were swollen, and she outright refused virasoothe and calpol. Her perfect skin looked so painful – they were all over her face and nose and cheeks, and we ended up in the Out of hours clinic hiding in a corridor away in a quarantined zone when some of them started to look infected. And finally, another excruciating wait for 2 weeks until my third child also began the process, with a more standard case – about 50-100spots.

Anyway the upside is that in between 6 weeks of isolation, singing and rocking uncomfortable children I spent a lot of time researching and now I can pass this information on to you!

1. Get vaccinated

Maybe? I knew that North America was already on the case with vaccinations but I didn’t know how many people privately vaccinate in the UK. Of course the problem is you never know whether you would get lucky and have a mild case like our eldest. Definitely one to discuss with the GP ahead of time if you are considering it.

2. Over the counter cream/lotion options: 

I really found that variety was key here. Partly in a placebo type manner, but doing something different each time meant the children were more likely to accept it as helpful. Their skin was really quite sore, and the virasoothe had a nice cooling effect – but my youngest (2) didn’t like it. Calamine comes in handy – smells a bit different and a nice pink colour for those of us with a 3 year old with a fairly major colour preference.  There is a cream aqueous version as well as the classic lotion. Look, without going into detail, some of the worse spots were in nappy/diaper areas and I wasn’t sure what cream you could use. The out of hours doctor recommended a mild cream like daktarin – and also an antibiotic cream, on any spots that looked as though they might be infected. Just the cooling effect of the cream was quite helpful I think.

3. Baths

I have never run so many baths but this was practically the only way they were comfortable when at the peak of itching. We did all the classics – tying oats into a muslin swaddle/cloth and holding under the running water (and leaving in the bath whilst bathing); adding camomile; bicarb, eurcerin; oilatum too. Again the variety seemed useful but mostly I think it was just the water – we ended up having baths at midnight, 2am, 4am, to take the edge off. (When I say ‘we’ – I was in there too, we reached that level of desperation!) When my daughter was less keen to take another bath despite being really uncomfortable we made it more exciting by doing things like putting her tin tea set in the water for her to splash around in – she would stay in there for a good half hour, prune-like but happy.

Our bath looked nothing like this and was filled with ill children

4. Piriton / anti-histamine

My elder daughter refuses any medicine and vomits it up if one insists – but our younger daughter happily took piriton on the two peak nights and I think it helped a bit with the itching and allowing her to get a bit more sleep. Definitely worth a try, despite the horror stories online about it making children hyperactive.

5. Long drives in the countryside

Enough said really – it gets miserable staring at the walls all day, 5 weeks in.

6. Don’t be afraid to call GPs

Not to be overly cautious but I was really nervous about one -or more- of the spots getting infected and making them more seriously ill. The spots look so painful anyway that I was worried. GPs are not going to think you are being overly dramatic and if you are worried about any areas in particular it is just worth getting them checked, don’t leave it until they are really red and inflamed. We had a tube of antibiotic cream and I popped some on any that had been accidentally scratched and might look a bit dodgy.

7. Fingernails – keep them short

Self explanatory but worth getting to this right at the start making sure they can’t scratch themselves too badly.

8. Remembering that the worst bit is over quite quickly and their skin recovers amazingly well.

Of course your main priority is their health – you feel pretty helpless. But it is also sad watching their perfect little skin be ravaged, especially in a more severe case like my daughter. I really couldn’t see how her skin would ever recover, it looked so angry and red. Within weeks it was barely noticeable and now, a year on, she only has one mark right on her hairline that is actually an identifiable chickenpox scar. So try not to feel too sad.

Good luck! And many sympathies if you are in the midst of it all. It will soon be nothing but a memory that you can blog about!


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