Chickenpox is caused by a virus called the varicella-zoster virus (varicella is the medical name for chickenpox). Chickenpox is a mild but highly infectious disease that most children catch at some point. It is most common to catch the disease between March and May. It takes 10-21 days for the symptoms to show after you have come into contact with the virus. This is called the 'incubation period'.

Chickenpox is most common in children who are between two and eight years of age, although you can develop chickenpox at any age. You are infectious from about two days before the rash appears until roughly five days after. Therefore you or your child should stay at home until all of the blisters have fully crusted over, and this usually happens five to seven days after the first blister appears. After the last blister has burst and crusted over, you are no longer infectious.

Chickenpox spreads via tiny droplets of saliva and nasal mucus in sneezes and coughs from an infected person. The virus is already in these droplets, which is why it spreads so fast. Once you have had chickenpox, you will very rarely catch chickenpox for a second time. This is because your body develops immunity to the chickenpox virus, which stops you from becoming re-infected.

Treatment with essential oils can considerably reduce the duration, severity and discomfort of an attack of chickenpox. Bergamot and Eucalyptus oils, which are both anti-viral, were widely used against chickenpox, and found very helpful before Tea tree became readily available in this country. Tea tree for chickenpox is highly recommended, although it is also a good plan to alternate this with the other two.

If the child is old enough to be treated with essential oils (from about 4 yrs) you can use any of these oils in baths, sprays and dabbing lotions to reduce the itching. With a small child, it is easier to immerse the whole body in a tepid bath every few hours than to try to dab lotion on each blister. Use 2 drops of Tea tree with 2 drops of Camomile to reduce itching. Alternatively, try 1 drop each of Bergamot, Eucalyptus, Camomile and Lavender.

Bed rest may prevent fever, and the child should be encouraged to sleep as this is one of the best things for chickenpox. Treatment involves trying to stop the very irritating itching. Add 10 drops of lavender and 10 of camomile to a l00ml bottle of calamine lotion and shake the bottle. Apply all over the body twice a day. Baths can also relieve the itching: add 2 drops of lavender to 1 cup of bicarbonate of soda and put in the bath. Also, spray the air with an anti-viral mixture.

For older children you can make a lotion with 5 drops each of Ti-tree, Camomile and Lavender added to 50 mls of witch hazel. Shake thoroughly and add to 50 mls of rosewater or distilled water and dab on the blisters as often as needed to relieve itching. Blisters treated in this way will heal much faster than with the traditional remedy of calamine lotion which clogs the pores and in fact slows down healing.

Adults with chickenpox are often very ill indeed, with high fever at the outset, and acute pain while the blisters are appearing. In such cases, use 3 drops of Ti-tree with 1 drop each of Bergamot, Camomile and Lavender to each bath, and make a more pain-killing dabbing lotion with 6 drops of Ti-tree and 10 drops each of Bergamot, Camomile and Lavender to 50 mls each of witch hazel and water or rosewater. Shake very well before each use. Bathing every few hours is strongly recommended if the patient does not feel too weak to do this. The dabbing lotion is particularly valuable in the latter stages of chickenpox, as it speeds healing and reduces the risk of scarring from the blisters.

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