Can adults get chickenpox?

I am a woman in my late 20s and, as far as I can remember, I have never had chickenpox.

Two of my nieces have recently had chickenpox — can adults get it, too? I am hoping to start a family this year.

Although chickenpox (varicella) tends to be thought of as a disease of childhood, it is possible for adults who had not previously had it to catch it from an infected person.

Chickenpox is a highly infectious virus that is spread in the air by the coughing and sneezing of an infected person (direct person to person contact) and through contact with clothing and bedding. It takes between seven and 21 days to develop symptoms after exposure to the virus.

The symptoms include feeling unwell for a couple of days before the rash develops with a headache, aching muscles, and temperature.

The rash starts as red spots which develop into small, fluid filled blisters; these are very itchy; mostly on the face and trunk and sparsely on the limbs. After a couple of days, the fluid clouds over and the blisters dry out, crust over, and eventually fall off. The red spots are intensely itchy.

Most children will make a full recovery within a few days but as symptoms can be worse in adults, it may take them a little longer to get over it.

Chickenpox can be more serious and cause complications if you are pregnant. There is a small risk of significant complications that can affect your baby such as prematurity or low birth weight.

As you plan to start a family, you need to find out if you have had chickenpox. I would advise you to make an appointment with your GP who can arrange a blood test to check for antibodies to the chickenpox virus.

My 16-year-old daughter has couple of small patches of acne on her face. This happened recently and she is very self-conscious and embarrassed. Should she try some over-the-counter preparations?

Most teenagers suffer from acne at some stage.

Acne develops when the small sebaceous glands in the skin which make the oil sebum start to produce more oil and these glands get blocked. Some may be inflamed and bleed. This happens as a result of changes in hormone levels at puberty.

For most people acne is mild, however sometimes it can be quite bad and may need treatment to prevent scarring. Even mild acne can be very distressing and teenagers can be very sensitive about it. Happily there are a wide range of treatments available to control acne and the good news is that most people will grow out of it completely. You should bring your daughter to your GP, who can examine her, assess how bad the acne is, and discuss what is the most appropriate type of treatment.

In the meantime, there are a number of simple options she can try:

* To wash her face gently twice a day with a mild soap (not a facial scrub) and lukewarm water;

* Avoid picking or squeezing any spots as this can make them more inflamed and more likely to scar;

* Avoid using oil-based creams / products on her face (including make-up) as they may clog the pores. You could check the ingredients list on any products, including sun blocks, that she is using on her face;

* If she has long hair or a fringe, keep it clean so that it does not get greasy and keep it off her face.

Ointments containing benzoyl peroxide are available from the pharmacy. They can be quite effective for mild acne; however they may irritate the skin. If this happens stop using it until the irritation goes, then try using it for a shorter time before washing it off.

It’s important to reassure your daughter that most teenagers develop acne at some time and that it almost always resolves itself over time.


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