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Debunking Old Wives' Tales: Chicken Pox

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Debunking Old Wives' Tales: Chicken Pox

Apr 25, 2016

Does your child have a rash? Red bumps all over the skin that leaves scabs? Does it look like chicken pox? Dr. Cindy Gellner thinks probably not. If your child received her standard 12-month immunizations, she has already received the chicken pox vaccine. The vaccine has a 97 percent effectiveness, so whatever your child has is probably something else and Dr. Gellner gives you some suggestions as to what it might be.

Episode Transcript

Dr. Gellner: There are a lot of concerns of chicken pox outbreaks lately. Is your child's rash really chicken pox, or is it something else? We will explore that very question on today's Scope. I'm Dr. Cindy Gellner.

Announcer: Keep your kids healthy and happy. You are now entering the Healthy Kids Zone, with Dr. Cindy Gellner on The Scope.

Dr. Gellner: So I've been hearing from a lot of parents that their children have chicken pox. Often, they are told this by someone other than their pediatrician. Some children do not have fevers. They just have itchy bumps on their skin. These bumps don't have blisters on them, but when the child scratches at them they get scabbed over. The rash may start on the arm or the leg, not the trunk. Usually, these patients have also had their chicken pox vaccines as well.

Most school-age children are protected from chicken pox now, thanks to the chicken pox vaccine. It is usually given at the 12- or 15-month well visit, and it is also one of the kindergarten vaccines. Researchers have found that giving these two doses is over 97% effective in preventing the once common childhood disease.

So is it chicken pox? If your child has been vaccinated, most likely not. There are other viral rashes that can look similar, such as the hand-foot-mouth virus, which can actually affect more than the hands, the feet and the mouth. Or other, less common rashes that providers who are not pediatricians may not be aware of. It may be something called papular eczema, which is seen commonly in kids who have allergies and asthma. It looks a lot like chicken pox, but it's not.

So if you don't know if your child has chicken pox or not and they've had their vaccines, take some pictures of the rash on a couple of days and call your child's pediatrician to see, do you need to have them brought in, what are the symptoms they have. And usually over the phone, your child's pediatrician will be able to tell you if they need to be seen for chicken pox or if this is something different.

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