Sunday, August 21, 2011

Chicken Pox Twice? Never!

My first son (Mikail) was infected with the chicken pox virus when he was turning two last year, I remember that it was a very trying period for me especially since my second son (Umair) was only 5 months old at that time. I was quite worried that it will pass on to him, in the end their father got it instead of Umair :p I decided to post in the facts so that other mommies will benefit from it. All these facts are from my sons PD;  Dr Sim from Pasir Ris Baby and Child.

Fact #1 Chicken pox is highly contagious but once you have gotten it, you can not get chicken pox twice. This is because the virus doesn't mutate unlike the flu virus, so once you are exposed to the virus and achieved immunity against it, it is for life. The flu virus on the other hand mutates with time, and that is why we always get the flu and can never achieve total immunity against it. New vaccines are always needed for the flu virus but for the chicken pox virus, the vaccine is always the same and the virus stays the same. You may be able to get infected by other viruses similar to chicken pox for example the shingles, but you will not get chicken pox twice.

Fact #2 The Mumps, Measles and Rubella (MMR vaccine) that is compulsory for toddlers in Singapore does not protect against chicken pox, for that you need the extra vaccine "Varicella" hence take MMRV instead. However, this does not mean that your kid will have total protection against chicken pox if vaccinated, there will still be a chance he can get it, but if he does get it, the outbreak will be milder.

Fact #3 If someone in the house is showing symptoms of chicken pox and you isolate that person immediately  in hope that it will not spread.. that's just in vain.. as that person is already infectious 3 days before the symptoms appear. (tiny blisters filled with fluid all over the body, face, back, stomach and pelvis is where they generally appear first)

Fact #4 Chicken Pox virus hibernate in the body for around 2 weeks before showing symptoms. So, if you are thinking "phew.. luckily I separated my son from that boy fast." Don't breathe that sigh of relief yet.. Wait for another 2 weeks to see whether he is or not infected. 

Fact #5 Babies up to 6 months can inherit their mother's antibodies, if mommy has gotten chicken pox before, especially if you are breastfeeding :) but after 6 months the antibodies wear off, hence the need for vaccine.

You can not get chicken pox twice. This is because the virus doesn't mutate unlike the flu virus, so once you are exposed to the virus and achieved immunity against it, it is for life. The flu virus on the other hand mutates with time, and that is why we always get the flu and can never achieve total immunity against it. New vaccines are always needed for the flu virus but for the chicken pox virus, the vaccine is always the same and the virus stays the same. You may be able to get infected by other viruses similar to chicken pox for example the shingles, but you will not get chicken pox twice.

Ok, to illustrate fact #4 and #5 further, let me explain how it was in my situation. 

I was on holiday at my mom's in Singapore, let's just say on Monday and my son was pretty excited meeting up with his cousin (who was also sleeping over at my mom's) and played with him the whole day. The next day, the cousin displayed symptoms of chicken pox, his mom immediately isolates him and took him out of the house by evening and I went back to KL with my son on the 5th day (note: there was no contact between them starting from symptom day) 2 weeks later; My son and I came back to Singapore, thinking everything's clear... when lo and behold.. the very next day that I arrived in Singapore, his symptoms appear. Two weeks after that? My husband's symptoms appear.. you can imagine how tiring it was taking care of chicken pox infected persons one after another.. well my son was still a better patient than my husband though, he wouldn't stop picking on his pox even when scolded. Of course, now he is scarred.. Good news is, my second son didn't get it :) phew.. if not, it would have been 6 weeks of caring for the sick ones.

In retrospect, had I known all the facts, I wouldn't have bothered going back to KL. I would have saved my money, time and effort and wouldn't have infected my husband :p

Mommies, if your kids have the pox, here are some of my tips:
  1. Let them play in water, as water makes it less itchy,
  2. Put calamine lotion all over the body to prevent scratching
  3. Expect fever as the body fights the infection, (that means less sleep for you mommies)
  4. Do not pick on the blisters as the fluid is infectious. Wait until the blisters has totally crusted over, if you pick on it too soon, you risk other infections to your son as the skin is like an open wound and can attract any kind of bacteria in the air. 

Children with chicken pox, generally doesn't feel sick except for itchiness and when the fever hits them (which is usually at night) so, prepare lots of toys and indoor activities for them so that they don't feel bored. Jigsaws, coloring books, balloons, story books, building blocks etc etc. 

Hope the above helps.