Tuesday, December 18, 2007

Chicken or pox? Take your pick

It all started with a pain in my right armpit. Feeling a tiny lump beneath the skin, I thought of it as another annoying pimple. Then a few spots appeared on my back and chest. Mum brushed it off as some insect bite…until when a big watery blister-like spot materialized on my chin. That’s when I started to panic. I’ve never encountered any watery blisters all my life and was dubious regarding the whereabouts of this unfamiliar little thing growing out of my body. Fortunately, the ‘attack’ only officially started after the women’s health campaign which me and Mum had painstakingly made preparations for the past few weeks. My bestie, who was the only one out of my invitation list who made it to the campaign, later on told me that she noticed a suspicious spot which resembled chicken pox on my chin (the one I was talking about). Like me, she also thought that it was another big pimple, and so did not tell me about it.

Anyway! The day after the campaign, I felt that the spots were becoming more and more itchier, and Mum decided to take me to the clinic to confirm the illness. It was confirmed allright, the Doc himself told me that he instantly knew that I had chicken pox the moment I walked into the room. I felt relieved and flabbergasted at the same time. Relieved because it did not break out while I was in uni doing major assignments or worse, taking major exams, and that it did not occur in the future where I’ll be doing my first full-time job. On the other hand, I was flabbergasted as I was planning to go X’mas window shopping that week (Lame excuse, I know!) and that X’mas and New Year are just few weeks away. Everyone knows that it’ll take ages for a person to heal out of chicken pox (Which means no partying!) even though the Doc told me that it’ll only take 5-10 days to recover. Now, every illness has its own pantang which are brought down by our ancestors. Let’s see, there’s the (1) cannot kena angin warning (no fans and air-con), (2) cannot shower for 3 days or until when the spots have appeared on the palms of your hands, (3) Foods such as kicap (soya sauce), seafood, eggs, sour food eg mango, peanuts etc are banned from consumption, and of course (4) you can’t go out or else you’ll spread the disease to someone else. The Doc advised me not to adhere to all that, but follow HIS advice instead, which are: (1) shower (including washing your hair) as much as u like, and (2) eat anything u want. Basically, he’s asking me to behave like u’re living the normal, healthy life. All the pantang, according to his opinion, are completely BULLISH. Being the modern girl, I decided to go along with his way except for one tinny part: I’m still not confident about the kicap thing and will avoid it until I’m fully recovered (Pity though, ‘cos I really adore kicap. I even can eat it with rice alone!) Beside the short and simple advice, the Doc gave me another simple rule: NO SCRATCHING. Well, I guess I can tolerate that. As a victim of teenage and young adult acne, I’ve had the complete training and discipline of never picking my pimples even if they are ever-oh-so tempting to be picked at.

When we went back home, I had a look at our family health encyclopedia on what chicken pox is all about. As I quote, “ A common and mild infectious disease of childhood, characterized by a rash and slight fever. It is sometimes called varicella. Chickenpox is rare in adults; when it does occur it usually takes a more severe form.” Mum once told me that I had measles when I was a baby, and from then on I always hoped that she was wrong and it was chickenpox instead (so that I don’t have to go through the sickening situation later on). Looks like I was wrong. 24 year-olds like me can still get it, so you guys out there, you can never get away with chickenpox even if you’re an adult. You gotta catch it at least once in a lifetime. My 28 year-old cousin just got hers last year. Okay, back to Medical Lesson 101, below are more info on the undeniable disease:

INCIDENCE AND CAUSE: The disease is caused by varicella-zoster virus. Although an attack confers lifelong immunity, the virus remains dormant within nerve tissues after the attack and may reappear later in life to cause shingles. The virus is spread from person to person in airborne droplets. Patients are highly infectious from about two days before the rash appears until about a week after. Women in the final stage of pregnancy should be particularly careful, since the disease may be serious in pregnancy and the newborn child may develop a severe attack.

SYMPTOMS: Two to three weeks after infection, a rash appears behind the ears, in the armpits, on the trunk, upper arms, and legs, inside the mouth, and sometimes in the trachea (windpipe) and bronchial tubes, causing a dry cough. The rash comes in crops appearing after 12 to 48 hours and consists of clusters of small, red, itchy spots that become fluid-filled blisters within a few hours. After several days the blisters dry out and form scabs. Children usually have only a slightly raised temperature, but an adult may have severe pneumonia with breathing difficulties and fever.

DIAGNOSIS AND TREATMENT: In most cases, rest is all that is needed for a complete recovery, which usually takes place within 10 days in children, but over a longer period in adults. Paracetamol can be taken to reduce fever, and calamine lotion relieves the itchiness of the rash.

In my case, the 2nd, 3rd, and 4th day happened to be the worst days in this unforgettable experience (suicidal stage). Ugly spots kept on appearing everywhere (especially my face), they were so unbearably itchy, and I got so weak and sleepy even though I had not done any activity. I was so weak I can’t even fold my clothes nicely! I lost my appetite and could only gulp down half a plate of rice. The least desirable everyday routine that I had to go through was taking a shower. I know, I know, taking a shower is cooling and is good to wash away the toxins on my skin. But to even touch the soft and red blisters on my skin made me felt so geli (disgusted). It’s so…eeeeeeeuwww!! Many times I restrained myself from scraping them with my fingernails. And when it comes to washing my face, ugh, it took me 15 minutes to clean them every time. I was particularly careful with my face ‘cos I don’t want to end up Ms. Scar Face of the year. Oh, and I had many sleepless nights too, no thanks to all the itching. There was one night where I changed my sleeping location 3 times: Mum’s bedroom floor, Mum’s sofa, and finally, ended up in my bed. Gosh, that was one helluva experience. It’s my 9th day now. The itch has gone, my spots are drying up, my face is looking better, and my appetite’s back. But it’ll take probably a month for the spots to really clear up. And I heard my niece got the pox too (from me, maybe?) and she should be in the nightmarish stage now. Good luck to her in combating her spots!

Oh God, how I missed all the sinfully yummy food. Nasi lemak, mango pickle, pizza, steamed prawns, fried squid, fish head curry. Ah well, I just need to be patient now.

And chickenpox is history.


Diana Rikasari said...

no worries tina...everybody goes through it...:)

V oN toP said...

ya...mum went shopping 2day..i'm SO JEALOUS!!! arghhh, i wanna go shopping too boohoohoo :(