As much as Chicken Pox spreads like wildfire through schools, nurseries, families and playgroups, it sometimes seems like it’s spread through social media too – I’ve seen so many posts and pictures about kids going down with it lately. It’s dragged up some pretty vivid memories with our girls, of when we had our episode in the spring of 2015; a milestone moment for any Mum and one that thankfully (hopefully) rules us out as ‘done’ with the pox.
I can’t tell you how many times we wondered whether Tigs had chicken pox, before she had chicken pox. Like any new Mum, every spot, viral rash or high temperature had us wondering ‘could this be it?’ and debating whether that one spot that soon faded away was perhaps the mildest case of Chicken Pox on record.
Of course the day we realised all of the previous cases had been null and void, was the day we ‘spotted’ a small red blister on Tigs, aged three, whilst getting her ready for pre-school. She’d been a bit ‘off’ for a day or so and the case was confirmed, by the obligatory whatsapp photos to Nanny 1, 2 and 3, and the evident appearance of new spots before our eyes. It was just three days after her third birthday party, which she had celebrated at a huge joint event with her best friend and between them every child they knew. That was an unfortunate message to have to send.
The small red spots quickly turned into fluid filled blisters, and this is what makes chicken pox, or Varicella zoster virus (VSZ), so recognisable. The infection is highly infectious but despite harbouring inside for up to 21 days before the rash appears, you are infectious from 1-3 days before the rash, until all spots have scabbed over.
Fortunately for us, it was perfect timing, in that we had no holidays booked, no major events, no nights out planned in (we had a six month old baby – it figures) and given I was busy being a SAHM / on maternity leave there was no panic over childcare or work.
We just set up camp at home for the next seven days or so, excitedly reporting ourselves in quarantine to all and quandary and embraced the at lazy home vibe. We snapped photos of a spotty but smiling tiny Tigs and found it all pretty exciting.
And then, things changed. Her temperature started to spike, she was laid up on the sofa; crying, uncomfortable, feverish. This suddenly wasn’t the ‘just a few spots’ scenario I’d expected to play out. It turns out chicken pox can actually make a child pretty unwell, and for her, she certainly didn’t react well to the virus.
The spots themselves were nasty – appearing on her tummy and face, making her eyes sore and her mouth, plus of course the inevitable itching which was unbearable. There was plenty of Calpol, days spent laying on the sofa, and even one dinner left sat on the table whilst a very poorly girl sloped off and fell asleep on the settee, which was so unlike her.
The advice for Chicken pox came thick and fast; DON’T use ibuprofen (it can make kids with Chicken pox ill), try oats in tights in the bath, calamine lotion, virasoothe gel…we sufficed with cool oaty baths, Calamine and Calpol, plus plenty of Disney movies, snuggles and PJ days. We made the most of the time and got Tigs baby sister started off on her weaning journey, and the spring sunshine’s welcome arrival allowed us to at least get out in the garden.
Not everyone stayed away, and her best friend’s Mum brought him and his sister over to offer moral support, have a play and hopefully take home a little gift too. For many parents, carefully choosing the moment to get Chicken pox can be an advantage – if you’re around at home, and have no holidays or important diary dates, it eliminates any unfortunate timings later down the road. Tigs BFF and his little sister did also end up spotty within a week or so, and as the common remark goes ‘ well at least they have it done and dusted’.
The spots created big, crusty scabs which bled and irritated – there are scars still on Tigs now, three years later. But with each new scab the new spots eased and we knew we were on the home straight to getting her back to normal.
It took about a week for every last spot to scab over and we were relieved to be able to break free from the cabin fever, just in time for a weekend away with friends in a rented house by the coast in Brighton. Six month old Dangermouse had shown no signs of any spots, and we went through the usual should we / shouldn’t we conundrum, ultimately concluding the sea air would do us all the world of good. No chicken pox until proven spotty, right?
We survived the weekend, had a marv time forgetting our previous ten days with miss itchy and scratchy, until the last three hours whilst packing up, we spotted a little blister just behind the mouse’s ear. And on her leg. And on her tummy.
Oh joy, just when we thought you were getting back to normality… a six month old baby with chicken pox.
Still, at least we knew what to expect, and Tigs was off pre-school for Easter holidays. Her spots were probably more in quantity, but not as severe as Tigs, and she didn’t seem to suffer as badly with temperature or discomfort. It just goes to show, that they are all different, and the intensity of the virus really does vary from child to child – from barely any spots at all to images that bring tears to your eyes, with spots covering every surface of the body. Inside mouths, around groins and in nappies are particularly prone, and so distressing for little children and their parents alike.
It was a bit unfortunate that our weekend away left our friends six month old twins with a dose of Chicken pox too, about a week later. Thankfully they never held it against us (!).
Still, at least, when the panicked messages come from left right and centre, asking if our two have had it, we can fear not, as we’ve served our chicken pox time.
But then again, rumour has it, you can get it again, right?