Treating Chicken Pox in Adults

By | July 31, 2010

So you get to the ripe old age of forty,  having never had ChickenPox, and your child suddenly develops the dreaded varicella zoster virus (VZV) having picked it up at school. The natural reaction is to try to keep the disease ridden offspring at arms length as much as possible during the infectious stage. However, that is easier said than done.  Another thought might be to ensure the younger sibling paws and frolics with the older one in order to be certain of infection and get it all over with together. It’s a good plan in theory.

I spent some considerable time Googling “Chicken Pox” as you are probably doing at the moment. I felt I was well researched and quite knowledgeable about it after an evenings reading. I had an imminent trip abroad — sans children — which took me away during most of the infectious period.

Two weeks later, feeling confident I was not going to contract Chicken Pox, and had evaded the pesky virus, I was on the flight home and started feeling like crap. Ooh er. The next day I felt worse still. The following morning a rash started appearing on my chest and neck. Yup, I had it.

A call to our ever inefficient GP revealed they were closed Saturdays. So I elected to visit the emergency doctor bright and early. Upon arrival, I was segregated like a leper even though no other patients were there. You would think I had Ebola from the behaviour of the staff in the health centre. Eventually I was herded by pointed stick into a room to see a doctor. He took a look and confirmed my diagnosis. His advice?

“Go home, drink lot of fluids, expect to itch like crazy, camomile lotion might help, it will be dreadful for about a week — good luck!”

Well I was armed with the results of my Google research and already had a treatment plan in case of such advice (which I kinda expected).

I asked him to prescribe me Acyclovir (which is the same drug as Zovirax for cold sores). He consulted his little drug book and refused. He claimed it wasn’t proven to help and would probably do no good. I pointed him toward a recent American university study that proved in cases such as mine, it typically shortened the cycle by several days. Taken five times a day, it has been shown to cause shorter periods of new lesion formation, fewer lesions, and more rapid healing but only if started within 24 to 48 hours of the onset of the rash. Well, I was within that time so I insisted. He caved and wrote the prescription. (I guess doctors hate us Googlers).

I asked his advice on quelling the forthcoming itching. Again, he began mumbling about camomile. Again Google was my friend. I asked him about combined doses of Asprin, Ibuprofen and Paracetamol in high doses coupled with Claratin. He thought about that and (after giving me a lecture on what a good drug Asprin really is, and how it is pretty much forgotten today because of previous bad press), agreed that the plan I presented was a slightly high dose, but medically safe for me, and would probably be very effective if I am happy to pop pills all day. Well, that’s an improvement on camomile only I guess……

So the (armchair researched) science: Chickenpox has no cure. It will run through the body in a week or two typically. Your job is to minimise symptoms and thus discomfort. Acyclovir (Zovirax) is an anti viral drug. Chickenpox is a virus; the varicella zoster virus (VZV). Acyclovir taken five times a day has been proven to shorten the cycle. My spot to scab cycle was less than a week. Wikipedia tells me it could be up to a month!

Ibuprofen, Asprin and Paracetamol are all pain killers. Ibuprofen is also an anti inflammatory (you have inflamed spots right?). These three pain killers are from different families and seem safe to be taken together. Pain is in the same family as itch. Thus, pain killers have effect on itch. Three different pain killers gave me three times the chance of not itching I thought. Guess what? I hardly itched at all.

Claratin (Loratadine) is an antihistamine. Used for hives, skin allergies and the like. You have a skin issue yes? Try it. It helps. I expect Benedryl or any other similar antihistamine would help too.

Bathing or showering was another consideration. Yes, you can shower with Chickenpox scabs, indeed you should because the virus doesn’t tend to live long on its own and down the plughole is the best place for it. The doctor offered no advice here, so I used common sense. Soaps and shower gels can contain stuff that might make the itch worse in my opinion (think what happens when they get in your eyes). So I used “Femfresh” as a shower gel. A PH neutral soap-free cleaner designed for ladies nether regions. It worked a treat. No extra irritation.

Oh and guys………. whitehead spots on the tip of your penis are normal too.  As are lesions and soreness under the foreskin (if you have one). It is worrying when your member breaks out in “the pox” — but normal. Keep it clean.

Sure, I felt like crap for a few days and my face looked like I had been peppered with machine gun fire. Yes, I popped more pills than Ozzie Osborne on a night out, but my cycle finished quickly and itching was almost zero. A far cry from what the doctor told me to expect. I had what I was told was a “particularly bad case”, yet compared to how I was warned it was going to be, it was a walk in the park.

The one remaining issue was our young daughter. When I first went to see the doctor I asked that she be vaccinated. He refused. He tried to claim first that there isnt a vaccine. Well Wikipedia says different:

A varicella vaccine was first developed by Michiaki Takahashi in 1974 derived from the Oka strain. It has been available in the U.S. since 1995 to inoculate against the disease. Some countries require the varicella vaccination or an exemption before entering elementary school. Protection is not lifelong and further vaccination is necessary five years after the initial immunization. The chickenpox vaccine is not part of the routine childhood vaccination schedule in the UK. In the UK, the vaccine is currently only offered to people who are particularly vulnerable to chickenpox.

Uh doc…… isn’t a little kid who has two folks in the house with it “particularly vulnerable”? He then changed his story and claimed that as she had been exposed, it would not work. Well, Google to the rescue again!

Can the vaccine protect you if you’ve already been exposed to chickenpox?
Yes, it is 70-100% effective if given within 72 hours of exposure.

I think he was getting fed up of Google Doctor by now. He flat out refused it and claimed it was not a standard vaccination in the UK. Well, I knew that already, so can I pay? Sorry mate. No chance. Yet in other countries it is standard. The US Centre for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), the American Academy of Pediatrics (AAP), and the American Academy of Family Physicians (AAFP) have all recommended that children receive this vaccine. Tens of millions of doses of varicella vaccine have been given in the United States, and studies continue to show that the vaccine is safe. Serious side effects are very rare.

The vaccine almost always prevents against severe disease. Getting chickenpox vaccine is much safer than getting chickenpox disease. Although some vaccinated children (about 2%) will still get chickenpox, they generally will have a much milder form of the disease, with fewer blisters (typically fewer than 50), lower fever, and a more rapid recovery.

Why the hell won’t GP’s in the UK vaccinate children? Even for money? If you know, or know how it can be done in the UK, tell me using the comments box below.

Our little daughter never caught it. (The law of sod). So I would like to vaccinate her. Why put kids through an illness that is almost entirely preventable? Welcome to the UK!

All comments welcome below.

Note & Disclaimer: The above is what worked for me. I am not a doctor (that’s why I didn’t publish doses). The above should not be construed as medical advice. It is simply my opinion based on my own experience. Do check with a doctor before embarking on any course of treatment. Your mileage may vary, blah blah, et al.

One thing I did learn: Do not give kids with Chickenpox Asprin. It seems OK for adults, but in kids can cause Reyes Syndrome — so don’t go there.

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