As a mother who (through indecisiveness and pure laziness) did not vaccinate her children against Chicken Pox, I'm now kind of wishing I had. We've just come out the other side but this has been a loonnnng month - fuelled by pizza takeaways, Netflix, gin and all the lotions and potions Boots and Holland & Barrett could throw at us. Here's my guide to the essential kit and getting through it...
PoxClin Cool Mousse, £10.99 at Boots - Easy to apply and spread, the mousse cools and soothes the spots. I used this religiously on both boys when their spots were in the blister stage and they did dry out nicely.
Porridge oats and old tights - Take a handful (or several) of porridge oats, stuff them into a bit of old tights, knot them so they're contained inside and chuck them in the bath. The oats have soothing properties and, when the bath water washes over them, an oaty milk is created that helps to soften the water and soothe the skin. Frank loved me squeezing the milk from the oats directly onto his skin, and it does feel soft and slippery so I can see see how it would be soothing. Top tip, though: Buy cheap oats and use very old or very cheap tights. I kept forgetting to restock our supplies so ended up hacking away at all my best M&S opaques and using all the posh Taste the Difference oats I'd probably bought by accident in the first place.
Piriton and Calpol - If your child is over 12 months, you can give Piriton to help with the itching. It contains an antihistamine called chlorphenamine, which can relive the itch. You can also give paracetamol-based pain relief, such as Calpol, to bring down any temperature and help with the pain. Don't give ibuprofen, though, as this could increase the risk of serious skin infection - a condition called necrotising fasciitis.
Coconut oil/Aloe Vera gel - As an alternative to specialist chicken pox lotions, I also used coconut oil (particularly on the face) and Aloe Vera gel. Both were recommended by other parents. I can vouch for Dr Bronner's Organic Virgin Coconut Oil, £9.99, and Dr Organic Maximum Strength Aloe Vera Gel, £5.99.
Tea tree and lavender oils - Add a few drops of both to the bath water to help soothe (lavender) and heal (tea tree).
Yard Sale Pizza - OK, any local pizza delivery will do the job. After the novelty of quarantine has worn off (read, you've watched Toy Story 1, 2 AND 3) and cabin fever has set in, a decent takeaway can feel like an event and a proper treat. Let the whole family eat together (and maybe enjoy a few drinks, too) without worrying about cooking/washing up/your spotty kids being judged by people eyeing up their rashes.
Gordon's Gin - Honestly, by the time you've put the kid/s to bed after a long day on scratch-watch/Calpol duty, you'll have earned this.
Netflix - ditto. Gin + Netflix + sofa = the best you can expect from your evenings at this stage.
Socks as gloves - My 4-year-old understood why he shouldn't scratch his spots and (spurred on by the promise of a Playmobil 'reward') was very good about leaving them alone. However, there's no such reasoning with younger kids and my 18-month-old WOULD NOT STOP SCRATCHING! So, at night, we put socks on his hands to try to limit the damage he could do. We found that his older brother's socks worked best, as they were longer (up to his elbows) but still snug so he couldn't pull them off by himself.
Bio-Oil - I'm still (after years of being a beauty journalist and reading all the glowing press releases) not totally convinced this has the magical scar-healing properties it's supposed to, but we took no chances and slathered this on once the spots had scabbed over (£19.99 at Boots). We also used the Remescar Scar Stick, £13.99 for targeting the scars on the face. Frank has one quite deep mark above his eye so it's still a work in progress, but all their other marks are fading nicely.
Finally, the essential information on chicken pox is that it's contagious from about 2 days before the first spots appear until all the spots have scabbed over. It usually takes about 5 days for each one to scab over and realistically, they're not all going to appear at once but could be staggered over several days. With my kids, each one was in quarantine for just under two weeks and - of course - they didn't overlap at all so it was a trying time in terms of childcare. The incubation period for the virus is anywhere between 10 days and 3 weeks, so if you've come into contact with a Poxy Kid, there could be a few weeks of will-they-won't-they stress and anticipation. Best start on that gin now...