In the early stages, it is difficult to tell the difference between the papules of chickenpox and the bites of a flea. Chickenpox is an airborne illness often associated with childhood. It presents with a hive-like rash that over time turns into a series of blisters. Both the bites from fleas and chickenpox papules will be itchy and uncomfortable. Treating either condition depends on your ability to identify what is causing the outbreak. Since chickenpox is highly contagious, you must make the determination as soon as possible.
Treat the symptoms initially. Both problems produce a very itchy rash. Use cool bath soaks and calamine lotion to ease the discomfort and try to prevent scratching.
Look at the history behind the rash. This is probably the single most important step in making a diagnosis. Have you been exposed to chickenpox and were you vaccinated? Do you have a pet that is itching as well? Look at the circumstances behind the illness. Ask at your child's school about students with chickenpox. Take any pets to the veterinarian to be checked for fleas. Work the puzzle until you solve the mystery of the rash.
Watch the progression of the rash closely. This should be telling. Chickenpox papules will turn to blisters and break open. The blister will crust over and then form a scab. Flea bites will look like hives. If you press on them, the skin will turn white. They should not generate into blisters.
Record any other symptoms. With chickenpox, you will become feverish, feel sick and possibly have a headache and abdominal pain. These are not symptoms that should present with flea bites unless they become infected. Chickenpox will eventually fade and the affected person will heal. If the flea infestation goes untreated, the bites will keep coming back.
Let your doctor make the final determination. Neither condition is serious. However, chickenpox is contagious. If you are infected, you must stay home from work and school. To know for sure, you will need to see the doctor. Take steps to eliminate a flea infestation as soon as you become aware of it. This means taking pets for treatment and dealing with the environment, such as carpeting. Fleas are notoriously hard to get ride of, so ask your veterinarian for advice on getting fleas out of your home.
There are some complications that can result from chickenpox. See your doctor if you have a compromised immune system, if you are pregnant or taking steroids. Children with asthma may have complications and will need medical treatment.