Our daughter, now 2, developed some unusual spots which I didn’t recognise. So we jumped into the car for a quick trip to the docs. However, even the doctor was stumped and merely took a swab, talking vaguely about hand, foot and mouth disease and asking us to call back in a week. Not very helpful.
Our daughter has not experienced much illness so far, except a few minor bouts of the usual nursery related mucus-fest, so it was unusual to see her slowly declining into lethargy and to see the march of undiagnosed spots appear rapidly across her little body.
I know Doctors get all snitchy when it comes to Google but I confess to some furtive searching so that I could work out what the spots were, as the Doctor clearly hadn’t a clue. It became very obvious quickly that it was just a bout of chickenpox. I came across a good description of the blister being ‘like a drop of water on a red base’.
I say ‘just’ with some caution, as chickenpox is certainly a mild and common disease in childhood. But, as it progresses there are two aspects that are worth being prepared for. One in alleviating the illness itself (we had a night of heart-stopping screams), and secondly, ways to deal with being housebound for over a week, until the very last spot has dried up, with a small child who is invariably grumpy, drowsy, screaming or bouncing off the walls as they begin to get better.
Having found lots of useful information across the web, I thought I’d suggest my own quick guide to surviving chickenpox… what we found helpful to ease the spots and illness, and some suggestions on keeping your little one occupied throughout those lost days cooped up in the house!
For the cabinet:-
- A soothing, itch-busting gel or mousse designed for chickenpox, which you can pick up at the pharmacy. Or good old fashioned calamine lotion if you prefer, though I believe aqueous calamine cream is better than normal calamine as it does not dry out the spots, which can make them itchier.
- Calpol to help moderate any fever.
- Piriton antihistamine in liquid form for children, this really helped to calm the itching and discomfort, after we experienced one night of two-hourly screaming that had us cannoning off each other in our haste. (Get advice from your pharmacist first.)
- And two old fashioned, natural remedies include; bicarbonate of soda, or oatmeal, in a warm bath (not hot as this is uncomfortable on the spots). It is supposed to help calm the itching but we found it was also a helpful, distracting activity.
- A good nappy cream, or the mousse mentioned above, to help spots in the nappy area, which can be very painful if affected.
- Also, cut their nails to help prevent scratching and scarring.
(As with any medicines it is best to consult your own doctor or pharmacist for advice.)
- During the lethargic stage, putting a DVD on is perfect as truly they don’t want to do much. And I wouldn’t beat yourself up about them watching TV. After all they are ill and just want to be quiet, still and cosy under a blanket. Something like ‘The Gruffalo’ or ‘Room on a Broom’ is lovely and calming to watch together, though our daughter also wanted to watch the less serene Disney’s ‘Cars ‘.
- Quiet activities like reading together or playing with something simple if they feel up to it can also be nice, and a perfect time for a cuddle.
- Or alternatively set up your computer with a slideshow of all your digital photos, they love this.
- Once feeling well again, and they are just waiting for the spots to clear up, then there’s lots more to do!…
- Playtime in a luke-warm bath
- Time outside in the garden (weather permitting!), playing or helping to plant seeds or to water the flowers. Or set up a basin of water with some plastic toys for them to splash their hands in. If you have one the sandpit is great.
- Get all their car toys outside and let them make little roads in the flowerbeds, if you are not too worried about your prize blooms. This also works brilliantly with plastic farm and jungle animals or dinosaurs!
- Check out Pinterest for a multitude of ideas on getting crafty. We made a set of owls using toilet rolls and are still in the process of creating a castle!
- Start a scrapbook and stick cut-out magazine pictures, photos or significant mementos.
- Good old fashioned colouring or painting is always a winner.
- Set up a stool in the kitchen and let them watch you prepare meals, or make a cake together.
- Put on some tunes and have a good boogie, can let off some steam.
- If you know of another toddler going through chickenpox at the same time invite them over and they can be all spotty together. Some parents even encourage exposing their child to the illness to get it over with, but that’s up to the individual parents.
- There are so many things you can do, indoors or outside, let us know if you have any other ideas or your own experience to add!
So we’re nearly done. But with an incubation period of between 10-21 days after exposure, next up is our 7 month old baby, which may prove a trickier experience. I’m anticipating lots of cuddles!