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HiPP's A-Z of pregnancy & child health

The A-Z contains information on many aspects of pregnancy
and child health. It is arranged alphabetically so you can find what you are looking for with ease. If you are at all concerned about your health or your child’s health, please consult your health professional.

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Chickenpox (Varicella)

Chickenpox is a common, infectious childhood disease. Usually mild in children, it is more serious in adults. Chickenpox starts with a rash and slight fever. The rash develops two to three weeks after infection. The small, red itchy spots soon become fluid-filled blisters. The blisters then dry up and scab over. Scratching the blisters may lead to infection and scarring. Chickenpox is highly infectious from about two days before the rash appears infectious until all the spots are dry and crusted over. An attack usually gives immunity for life, but the virus remains dormant in the body and can reappear as shingles later in life.

Most pregnant women (around 95%) will have had the disease and already be immune. Pregnant women who have never had the disease (or who are unsure if they have had it), however, should try to avoid children with chickenpox, since the disease can be serious in pregnancy. If they are exposed, they should contact their GP, midwife or obstetrician at once. A blood test will establish if they are immune.

A doctor should also be consulted if a breastfeeding mother who has never had chickenpox comes into contact with the virus, or if a newborn baby (under 4 weeks old) is exposed to the disease.

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