I have learned a lot about chicken pox this week, to wit:
- When your 18-year-old son comes home from work one day with his face covered with pimples, you must not automatically conclude that he has been indulging in too much junk food at work. Even if he has.
- When a few hours later you notice that he is also breaking out on his arms and legs, you certainly may conclude that Something Is Amiss.
- If you ask him to raise his shirt to see if he is also breaking out on his chest and back, he will give you a Very Strange Look Indeed. Never mind. Insist.
- People can (and do) get chicken pox twice, and sometimes three or four times. This is a fact.
- There are times I’m thankful for Netflix.
- I have secret knowledge of a very comforting and effective way to relieve the itch of chicken pox.
- I am going to share this secret knowledge with you, my Gentle Readers.
- I would do nearly anything to help my son through this misery, even–possibly–walking a tight wire across a deep divide.
Did you hear about Nick Wallenda, by the way, who achieved his dream of walking a tightrope across the Grand Canyon? I think he’s awesome. Insane, but awesome. Don’t you?
Pity my poor son Timothy. He’s 18 years old. He works as a computer web-designer-code-fellow-geek-person (his co-workers call him “The Hackstar”). He has the chicken pox. For the second time.
We have six children, and I can remember each of their individual cases of chicken pox. Timothy has the dubious honor of having the most memorable case. He was a baby, just short of his first birthday, and we took off to South Dakota for a summer vacation. I remember the evening before we were set to leave, I was outside planting some petunias in my flower bed. I didn’t want the potted annuals to perish while we were out of town.
Little Timothy was sitting right with me in the flower bed, digging up the roly-polys. I glanced over and noticed that mosquitoes were buzzing around him, so I scooped him up (leaving those petunias to wither away–the sacrifices I make for my babies!) and went inside. The next day, when we got up, I noticed that he had bites all over his face, and mentally kicked myself for not having taken him inside sooner. We left on our trip, and at dinnertime we stopped at a Pizza Hut for a meal. A man passing by our table stopped and studied little Timothy’s face, which was well broken out by this time. “Chicken pox?” He asked.
“Oh, nooo,” I replied quickly. “Mosquito bites . . . I actually saw the mosquitoes!”
The man looked closely at Timothy’s face, gave me a look, and walked off.
I studied my baby’s face. The man, obviously, was a boor. They were mosquito bites—right? But that man set my mind in motion, and by the time we set up camp later that evening, in a beautiful South Dakota State Park, we had come to the conclusion that our little boy had the chicken pox, after all. The Pizza Hut man was right.
The park was rustic (it didn’t offer many services), and we were tent-camping. We were fortunate in that little Timothy didn’t need much besides a couple days of cuddling with his mama, so we changed our travel plans and stayed put at that park, as I nursed our sick little baby through the fever and the misery of the early stages of that illness. There was this beautiful red canyon in the park, and I remember sitting and holding my little fella, praying that God would heal him quickly, and counting it a blessing to have something so lovely to look at. The older kids–Matthew, Andrew, and Bethie were completely happy with the practically-empty park (the “rustic” parks aren’t the busiest ones, apparently), a playground nearby, and parents too preoccupied with a sick baby to over-supervise them.
All in all, it was win-win for everybody but baby Timothy.
Once Timothy was feeling well enough to travel, we took off to see the sights in South Dakota, but I’ve never forgotten his memorable case of chicken pox.
South Dakota, by the way, is well worth a visit. It’s one of my favorite places on earth. Even the crowded tourist attractions aren’t crazy-crowded, if you know what I mean. The Needles are one of my favorite places on earth. I love Mount Rushmore and the Badlands are awesome in their spooky starkness. If you have a chance, go there! A place that promotes a castle made entirely out of corn is just okey-dokey in my book!
From the official Corn Palace website: “The World’s Only Corn Palace is an outstanding structure which stands as a tribute to the agricultural heritage of South Dakota.
The original Corn Palace, called “The Corn Belt Exposition” was established in 1892. Early settlers displayed the fruits of their harvest on the building exterior in order to prove the fertility of South Dakota soil. The third and present building was completed for it first festival at the present location in 1921.
The exterior decorations are completely stripped down and new murals are created each year. The theme is selected by the Corn Palace Festival Committee and murals are designed by a local artist.”
Awesome, huh? But anyway–to recap–baby Timothy had a good case of chicken pox that summer. We all remember it. He recovered and didn’t look back. One of the more unpleasant rituals of childhood–having chicken pox–check! Done!
Which is why it was such a surprise when he came home from work the other day with a very bad case of chicken pox. He had stayed home from work for a couple of days, as he had been a bit feverish and puny-feeling. But when he got up that morning he thought he was feeling better, so he headed off to work. He really loves his job. When he came home from work, I asked him about the “pimples” across his face.
“What are those?” I asked, staring at the spray of bumps across his face. None of my children have had acne, just the occasional pimple now and then. This looked like acne.
“Just pimples, I guess,” he said with a shrug.
“But you never have pimples,” I said.
“I know,” he said. We stared at each other for a moment, and as we did, he reached up and scratched his side. Timothy’s cousin Luke had been suffering from the chicken pox, and this fact occurred to me at this time. “Do you have any other ‘pimples,’ say, on your side there?” I asked.
Timothy lifted up his shirt. “That’s the funny thing–look at these big bumps on my side. They itch. And I’ve got two big bumps on my head that are itchy, too . . . ”
We stared at each other silently. “I’ve already had the chicken pox,” he said.
“You have the chicken pox now,” I said, finally.
“But I thought I had them when I was a baby,” he said.
Well, as it turns out, you can get the chicken pox more than once. You can get it several times, I guess. You can catch a related disease, Shingles, from the same virus, too. You can catch the chicken pox if you’ve had the vaccination, too.
This is one tricksy-virus, the varicella zoster virus, which causes chicken pox. At least it’s pretty obvious when you’ve got it. You’ll get red itchy bumps on your skin that look a lot like acne, which will quickly change to look like blisters.
Within a few days of the blistering, the blisters will begin to scab over, and when every last blister is scabbed, you can assume that you can no longer pass on the virus.
All this misery isn’t the worst of it, though. The bumps are very itchy, and usually they are accompanied with fever, sore throat, exhaustion, and so forth. Poor Timothy. In his self-effacing way, he had suffered for several days before he mentioned it to us.
It has been many years since I’ve helped a child through the chicken pox, and I had to remind myself of what to do to comfort him. Of course meals were brought to his room, and we ran to the store for fudgsicles, ice cream, and ginger ale, all comfort foods here. We tried many things to help Timothy with the itching, and one thing worked so well that I decided that it might be good to share it with you all, Gentle Readers. You never know when one of your loved ones might need some comfort measures for chicken pox. Even when you thought you were through with all that.
We actually tried many things to help with the severe itching, but Timothy said that one thing was the best (here comes the secret knowledge part of this post) and that was the combination oatmeal bath with baking soda which brought him the most relief.
The best way to take an oatmeal bath without having to take hours to scrub your bathtub afterwards, is to make an oatmeal stocking. This is a very simple thing to do, and I’ve got to give my sister Anne the credit for this. She was helping her son Luke through the chicken pox, so she shared this with me. (Thanks, Sister! :))
You only need the following:
- 1 cup baking soda
- about 18″ of a pantyhose leg
- 2 cups of raw rolled oats
Here’s what you do to make the ingenious oatmeal stocking:
- First, grind up the raw oats in your blender
- Pour the ground-up oats into the pantyhose leg
- Knot securely.
Turn on the bath as hot as your child can stand it, and pour the baking soda under the running water, swishing it around as you do so. Then hold the oatmeal stocking under the running water, and squeeze it to release the starch from the oatmeal. Leave the stocking in the bath as your child takes a bath, and encourage him to squeeze the water from the stocking over his face and other itchy areas.
In the early days of his illness, Timothy took a couple of long oatmeal baths each day, and he said that the effects of the anti-itchiness lasted for several hours.
Since I would have done nearly anything to help him feel better, I was happy that this was actually quite a simple thing!
So if your child or other dear one catches the chicken pox (or catches them again), be sure to try the baking soda/oatmeal stocking approach.
It certainly was a relieving thing for Timothy, and it was easier for me than walking a tightrope across the Grand Canyon!
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