If you’re a working mum or dad you’ll understand me when I say I’ve been dreading chicken pox. Every time a parent posted about a rash I’d come out in a cold sweat myself, and worry about my youngest, Percy, 6, catching it. This is mainly due to the fact that when my eldest two, Poppy, 13, and Mitchell, 17, were 6 and 2 respectively, they both caught the disease and what followed was a fraught month of misery.
At the time, I was a single mum, trying hard to make ends meet. I’d also just endured gall bladder surgery. I needed the children to go to school so I could recover and work online, so when my hyper active two-year-old caught it, I took a deep breath and reluctantly decided work could wait for two weeks’ time.
When the two weeks were up, I shipped her back to nursery and enjoyed a whole six hours of working in peace before my son returned home with angry red welts. As self-employed I waved goodbye to another two weeks of pay and we lived very frugally while pleading with the landlord not to evict us due to late payments.
A month had passed, I was almost recovered, I could once again work all hours. In just a few short weeks there would be the endless school holidays were work was difficult as it was. I needed to make up time, I need to visit clients, I needed to clean caravans and tend to customer’s gardens. Taking a bath one evening, with the children settled in bed, I dipped a foot into the velvety warm water only to notice a spot, then two, then tens of glowing yellow blisters all over my podgy body. How could I meet my clients like this?
I was 27, a grown up, and I had the worst case of chickenpox my doctor had seen. My mum was convinced I’d suffered as a child, but she isn’t known for her astute memory of my childhood days.
Chickenpox took 6 weeks of our lives, it nearly sent me back to hospital, it nearly bankrupted my little business that I’d worked so hard to build up as a single parent. No wonder I viewed the disease with suspicion and avoided parents and children who mentioned the pox.
I’ve Been Expecting You
I was more worried this time as I knew my youngest wouldn’t cope with the itching. I also have an office in the home, and she’s not easy to work with. My husband is starting his own business and needs to be working 24/7 to get it off the ground, while I work forty plus hours per week doing what I love. In the absence of holiday childcare and after school clubs, it’s imperative our youngest goes to school so we can spend the time working without guilt. We pack so much into that six hours.
Of course, chickenpox came. It’s here right now, and we’ve had to cancel a family holiday due to the dreaded spots (which we’re not allowed to take with us).
What I Learned About Modern Chicken Pox
Although I’d had a long-life experience of chicken pox ten years ago, I soon learned that this time round the world had changed. The advice surrounding chicken pox had changed and I needed to catch up in order to provide the best relief for my daughter.
Her temperature was sky high, and the spots came out over a period of four days. I thought she’d got off lightly but by day 4 she was covered from head to foot with a corker on her nose.
The medicine box was stocked with chamomile lotion, Piriton and Calpol but some of this was outdated. To offer the best relief for the pox I needed to adhere to up to date advice which included:
- No ibuprofen for chickenpox, as it makes it worse. Stick to paracetamol for pain relief and fever.
- No chamomile lotion as it dries and increases itchiness. There are chamomile creams on the market. I bought them all, from ViraSoothe to PoxLotion but the best seemed to be an aqueous solution with chamomile that cost a fraction of all the others.
- An oat bath can help. We put oats in a sock and held under the hot tap while the bath was running. This seemed to relieve the itching a lot.
- Children can return to school with spots. This was totally alien to me, as the advice used to be that they should be completely clear but apparently once the spots have crusted over, children are no longer contagious.
Times change quickly, as does advice and I caught up in a bid to offer the best relief.
Giving In but Not Giving Up
The night I had been dreading arrived and Percy tossed and turned while scratching her skin raw. I’d given her Piriton, we’d had an oaty bath, I applied the cream but she claimed it made the feeling worse. As a few spots started to bleed, I looked at the clock, it was 10pm. There was nothing else for it, we’d have to try distraction techniques.
“Come on Percy, let’s get up.” She looked at me as if I’d grown another head. “Let’s have another oaty bath, then let’s make a picnic, watch some TV and read some Harry Potter.”
She was delighted. She jumped up and down on the spot as I ran the bath, as the itching was relentless, but once in the tepid water she seemed to relax and began nattering about what we’d do while we stayed up all night.
Her appetite wasn’t great, but still we enjoyed fruit and sandwiches and yogurts while watching a Harry Potter film. By 3am she was ready for more medicine, she still wouldn’t entertain the cream, but she began to nod off as I read the Chamber of Secrets aloud.
The next day we enjoyed a little lie in, and spent the day colouring, drawing and playing board games. She was still very itchy but it seemed like the worst was over, now we could concentrate on getting her better.
There came a complication about a week later when she didn’t seem to improve. The itching had stopped but she still had a temperature, and seemed generally unwell. Then she began screaming in agony, so we whipped her to the doctors for an emergency appointment. It turns out she had a poc under a tooth, which had caused an infection and an abscess, causing all sorts of pain. A course of antibiotics and she’s now back at school, just in time to break up for the Easter holidays!
Please share your chicken pox stories, tips and survival techniques on our Facebook page, we’d love to include them in our articles and posts.