The varicella-zoster virus causes chickenpox, a contagious infection, according to "The Merck Manual for Healthcare Professionals." More common among children than adults, chicken pox causes symptoms of discomfort and in some cases, pain. The symptoms are especially difficult for toddlers, as they may not be able to describe what they feel. But, as the disease runs its course, but parents should be able to observe clear, characteristic signs of infection.
Fever and Headache
"The Merck Manual for Healthcare Professionals" notes that a person may experience fever, headache and a general feeling of sickness 11 to 15 days after exposure to the chickenpox virus and that these early symptoms occur 24 to 36 hours before lesions occur. Parents should be alert to a toddler trying to communicate that he has a stomachache or headache. KidsHealth.org adds that a toddler might also experience abdominal pain or a sore throat, and might seem to have a cold, with visible signs such as coughing, sneezing or runny nose. A loss of appetite may occur at this stage or later, notes MayoClinic.com.
The first visible sign of chickenpox is a red, itchy rash, sometimes accompanied by temporarily flushed skin, according to "The Merck Manual for Healthcare Professionals." The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention adds that the rash usually starts on the face and trunk before spreading over the entire body, in some cases. The rash can even extend to the ears and eyes. A toddler’s natural reaction will be to scratch the affected area. KidsHealth.org suggests that parents use cool damp compresses or frequent lukewarm baths to relieve the itchiness that accompanies the rash and the other ensuing symptoms of chickenpox. A doctor can confirm whether the toddler does indeed have chickenpox and may prescribe medications to decrease the severity of the disease.
The rash caused by chickenpox develops quickly into raised bumps, or papules. "The Merck Manual for Healthcare Professionals" notes that this usually occurs within hours after the first appearance of the rash. Parents should try to discourage toddlers from scratching since this may open the papules an make the child more susceptible to other infections. KidsHealth.org suggests putting mittens on the toddler's hands when he goes to sleep.
The chickenpox papules develop into characteristic blisters or vesicles. "The Merck Manual for Healthcare Professionals" points out that these blisters appear in successive waves, with a new series of blisters appearing just as others crust over and begin to form scabs. If the toddler has blisters in his mouth, parents may give him acetaminophen, but not aspirin, to assuage the pain. If the blisters extend to the genital area, parents should see a doctor or pharmacist for pain-relieving ointment. New papules usually stop appearing after five to six days. KidsHealth.org notes that by day 14, most of the toddler’s blisters will have formed scabs and the contagious period of chickenpox will have ended.