Common childhood illnesses & well-being
A guide for parents and carers
Chickenpox & measles

Chickenpox & measles

Chickenpox

Chickenpox is a mild disease that most children catch at some point. The spots often look like mosquito bites and can appear on any part of the body. After having chickenpox, the virus stays in the body. Later in life the virus can come back in a different form known as shingles.

Chickenpox is easy to pass on to someone who has not had it before. If your child has chickenpox keep them away from others.

Chickenpox can be incredibly itchy, but it's important for children to not scratch the spots so as to avoid future scarring. One way of stopping scratching is to keep fingernails clean and short. You can also put socks over your child's hands at night to stop them scratching the rash as they sleep.

If your child's skin is very itchy or sore, try using calamine lotion or cooling gels. These are available in pharmacies and are very safe to use. They have a soothing, cooling effect.

Measles

Measles is a very infectious, viral illness which, in rare cases, can be fatal. One in five children with measles experience complications such as ear infections, diarrhoea and vomiting, pneumonia, meningitis and eye disorders. There is no treatment for measles. Vaccination is the only way of preventing it, so make sure your child has their MMR vaccination. Speak to your health visitor.

Symptoms develop around 10 days after you are infected and can include:

  • Cold-like symptoms.

  • Red eyes and sensitivity to light.

  • A fever.

  • Greyish white spots in the mouth and throat.

After a few days, a red-brown spotty rash appears. Starting behind the ears it then spreads around the head and neck before spreading to the rest of the body. If there are no complications symptoms usually disappear within 7-10 days.

Contact your GP if you suspect that you or your child may have measles.

Help to make your child comfortable:

  • Close the curtains/dim lights to help reduce light sensitivity.

  • Use damp cotton wool to clean eyes.

  • Give sugar-free paracetamol or ibuprofen.

  • Ensure they drink lots.

Painkillers

If your child is in pain or has a high temperature (fever), you can give them paracetamol. Do not give ibuprofen to children with chickenpox because it may increase the risk of skin infection.

Aspirin should not be given to children under the age of 16.

Health Visitor

Health visitor says

Do not forget to keep up-to-date with immunisations to protect your child from measles (MMR vaccination). It is never too late for your children (or yourself) to ‘catch up’ with the MMR vaccination if they missed it earlier.

Midwife says

If you are pregnant and have had chickenpox in the past it is likely that you are immune to chickenpox.

However, please contact your GP or midwife for advice.