What can I eat while chickenpox?

Chickenpox - the dormant virus

A fever and a mild feeling of illness are the first signs of chickenpox. After a day or two, the typical rash appears: the itchy papules spread all over the body. After a short time, small vesicles form from the papules. The liquid in it is highly contagious to other people. Strong scratching will open the blisters and leave scars. The infection is usually over after five to seven days; the blisters heal and crust.

Chickenpox, an infection for life

Chickenpox is caused by the varicella zoster virus. The virus is one of the herpes viruses. Anyone who has survived an illness is usually immune for life and cannot get infected again. However, the viruses still dormant in the body. There they can become active again years later and cause shingles. Shingles occurs mainly in people over the age of 50 or people with a weakened immune system. Stress or psychological stress can also cause shingles to break out.

Chickenpox: when things get complicated!

Chickenpox is usually straightforward in children. Severe courses of an infection occur especially in newborns or people with a weakened immune system; In principle, however, they can occur in all sick people.

If the fluid leaks out of the vesicles, there is a risk of serious bacterial infection of the skin. The vesicles can also affect the lining of the mouth and cause small wounds. Eating and drinking are then very painful.

Inflammation of the lungs (varicella pneumonia) is feared and occurs in around one in five adults. It usually starts three to five days after the chickenpox infection. In very rare cases, the infection spreads to the central nervous system: balance disorders and irritation of the meninges are possible consequences.

Chickenpox in pregnancy

In the first six months of pregnancy, chickenpox only very rarely leads to malformations in the child (skin changes, malformations of the nervous system and skeleton, and damage to the eyes). If pregnant women fall ill around the due date, chickenpox infection can be life-threatening for newborns. 30 percent of the children die.

How contagious is chickenpox?

Chickenpox pathogens are hidden in the saliva of sick children and adults. When breathing, coughing and sneezing, the viruses get into the air (droplet infection). A fleeting contact within several meters is enough to get infected with the varicella-zoster virus. The fluid in the chickenpox vesicles is also highly contagious: the viruses spread to other people through a smear infection.

Where does the name "chickenpox" come from?

The easy transmission "with the wind" gave the infection the name chickenpox.

Children and adults are instantly contagious

Chickenpox breaks out eight days to four weeks after being infected; Usually the first symptoms appear after two weeks. In the first two days, however, sick children and adults are highly contagious, even if the rash is not yet visible. The risk of infection ends when all the blisters dry out and crust after about five to seven days.

The Robert Koch Institute recommends:

If the chickenpox infection is uncomplicated, children can go back to kindergarten or school after a week.

Before the doctor's appointment: you have to pay attention to this!

Inform the doctor's office if you suspect chickenpox infection before your appointment. The practice team can take appropriate protective measures to prevent you or your child from infecting other people in the waiting room.

The doctor can tell immediately from the typical rash whether it is chickenpox or another infectious disease. A special examination is usually not necessary.

Only in special cases does the doctor initiate further examinations to detect the chickenpox pathogen: in the case of immunocompromised, in patients with a disease of the nervous system or pneumonia, in pregnant women and newborns. The viruses can be detected directly or indirectly:

  • In the case of direct detection, the doctor examines the genetic material of the virus in the vesicle fluid, in the cerebrospinal fluid (liquor), the lung secretions or blood. In pregnant women, a sample is taken from the uterus (from the placenta, amniotic fluid or fetal blood).
  • Indirect detection is an antibody determination from the blood or liquor. In this way, doctors can also check the immune status and the success of the vaccination.

Treating chickenpox properly

Careful skin care is especially important during a chickenpox infection so that the blisters do not become infected.

  • Stay in a cool environment, as heat and sweat increase the itching
  • Trim fingernails to avoid scratching the blisters
  • Daily bathing
  • Use medication (antihistamines) to relieve itching

Now medication is needed!

In the case of severe infections, the chickenpox pathogens are treated directly: so-called antivirals (acyclovir) are aimed directly against the varicella-zoster virus in the body.

If people with weakened immune systems or pregnant women who are not vaccinated and who have never had chickenpox come into contact with chickenpox, immunoglobulins may prevent infection. These special immunoglobulins are ready-made antibodies against the varicella zoster virus. This is intended to give the unborn child a certain protection along the way. However, these drugs will only prevent chickenpox infection if taken within four days of contact with a sick person.

Important to know:

In the case of chickenpox, the regulations of the Infection Protection Act apply: Children suffering from chickenpox are temporarily not allowed to visit community facilities such as schools or kindergartens. The facilities must be informed in the event of suspicion in order to prevent the disease from spreading. Community facilities can be visited again as soon as the children are no longer contagious. It usually takes a week until then.

Take precaution into your own hands!

The Standing Vaccination Commission (STIKO) has recommended vaccination against chickenpox since 2004. Since then, the number of infections in Germany has become rarer - up until then there were around 750,000 new cases per year. Nevertheless, the infection is still one of the most common childhood diseases. In Germany, around one in five adults will develop shingles in the course of their life.

Two vaccinations protect a lifetime

The chickenpox vaccination consists of a live vaccine. The doctor injects weakened pathogens that stimulate the immune system to produce antibodies. This makes the vaccinee immune to chickenpox.

For long-term protection (basic immunization), children receive two vaccinations against chickenpox: The first chickenpox vaccination is given between the ages of eleven and 14 months and the second between the ages of 15 and 23 months. There must be an interval of four to six weeks between the two vaccine doses. The first chickenpox vaccination can be given in combination with the vaccination against measles, mumps and rubella.

Tip: refresh your vaccination protection!

Many adults only pay attention to the vaccination protection of their children. One reason: The threat of infectious diseases is no longer as present as it used to be, so vaccination protection is often forgotten. When was the last time you looked at your vaccination certificate?

If children and adolescents have not yet been vaccinated, protection should be obtained quickly. Because even in adolescents, chickenpox infection can be complicated. The Standing Vaccination Commission also recommends vaccination for these people:

  • Women who want to have children
  • Children and adults with neurodermatitis
  • Immunocompromised children and adults
  • People who have close contact with immunocompromised children and adults