Chicken pox is an acute infectious viral disease. The incubation period is 11 – 20 days. It is mainly children who are affected, but adults may develop chicken pox if they did not suffer from it during childhood. The chicken pox lesion begins as a small fluid-filled blister. In the early stage, the fluid is clear. This quickly becomes cloudy and the centre of the blister becomes depressed. The blisters are intensely itchy and the surrounding skin becomes red. The blisters then rupture leaving crusts which dry and fall off after 14 days.
The spots usually develop over a period of several days so that the early rash is a mixture of new spots, blisters and crust. There is no scarring unless bacterial infection has occurred. The spots usually appear first on the trunk, face and scalp then on the arms and legs. There are usually no spots on the palms of the hands or soles of the feet. In adults, the disease is more serious with symptoms including headaches, vomiting and a high temperature.
The first step in treatment should be to relieve the intense itching for the comfort of the patient. This is important to help prevent the patient from scratching which may introduce a secondary infection and lead to scarring. (Fingernails should be kept short and clean). Application of an antiseptic preparation may also help prevent secondary infection due to scratching. If a secondary infection does occur, antibiotics may be required.
Advice for the Patient
1. Due to the risk of secondary infection and scarring, the patient should be advised not to scratch.
2. As with all skin irritations, the patient should avoid using soap which may remove the natural acid protection of the skin against infection. The patient should also be advised to pat the skin dry after bathing. Rubbing with a towel may result in abrasion of the skin.
3. Children should be excluded from school for 5 days after the first appearance of spots or until all spots are dry.
Products to Help (Anti-pruritic, Soap Alternatives)
An anti-itch, anti-inflammatory and cleansing solution with a pH of 6.5, Pinetarsol Solution relieves itching and reduces inflammation. Bathing also helps to keep the skin and fingernails clean to reduce the risk of secondary infection and scarring caused by scratching. Add 15 - 30mL to a warm to tepid bath (5 mL to a baby’s bath). Bathe for 5 - 10 minutes, once daily or more often in severe cases. For patients in bed, add 10 mL to 3 litres of warm water to wash patient in bed.
PINETARSOL BATH OIL
Pinetarsol Bath Oil is a non-greasy, water dispensable bath oil for the treatment of dry, itching, inflamed skin conditions. Containing pine tar, Pinetarsol Bath Oil reduces the inflammation and relieves pruritus. Pinetarsol Bath Oil also contains emollient oils to hydrate the skin. Due to the cleansing properties of Pinetarsol Bath Oil, it may be used as a soap alternative. Add 15-30mL to a warm to tepid bath (5mL to a baby’s bath or hand basin) and bathe for 10 minutes once daily, more often in severe cases. Pat skin dry.
Products to Help (Adjunct Therapy Antiseptics)
SOOV Cream is a general purpose antiseptic cream containing phenoxyisopropanol, cetrimide and chlorhexidine gluconate to help prevent infection. SOOV Cream also contains lignocaine hydrochloride 1%, to provide fast relief from itching, pain and discomfort. Apply directly onto lesions to help prevent infection of broken blisters due to scratching.