Chickenpox

Can medicinal cannabis help people who are suffering from symptoms of chickenpox? Read below to find out more. 

What is chickenpox?

Chickenpox is a highly contagious disease caused by the varicella-zoster virus (VZV). It can cause various symptoms, including itchy, blister-like rashes on the chest, back, face, and possibly the whole body. Chickenpox can be severe. It can occur during pregnancy in babies, adolescents, and adults with weak immune systems.

How is it spread?

Once a person has chickenpox, they won’t catch it again from another person. Without vaccination, you can get chickenpox at any age, but it typically occurs in children. Adults who get chickenpox may become extremely sick, so it’s better to have it as a child or prevent it by being vaccinated.

The virus is spread by:

  • Coming in contact with someone with chickenpox.
  • Breathing air after a sneeze or cough from an infected person.
  • Touching fluids from an infected person’s eyes, nose, or mouth.

Signs & Symptoms

Signs of chickenpox are easy to spot. Healthcare providers can often observe the skin and know if a patient has chickenpox. Symptoms of chickenpox typically occur in the following order:

  • Fever.
  • Fatigue.
  • Headache.
  • Stomachache
  • Skin rash that is very itchy with small blisters
  • Bumps filled with a milky liquid
  • Scabs after the blisters break
  • Blotchy skin
  • Spots that begin to fade

Diagnosis & Treatment

A diagnosis can be made simply from observing symptoms; they are often relatively obvious. Make sure you or your child gets plenty of rest and stay hydrated. Chickenpox will go away naturally within a week or two at the most.

Other ways to help may include: 

  • Place a cool, moist rag on the rash.
  • Keep cool with a fan.
  • Don’t scratch. Or encourage your child not to scratch as it can worsen the symptoms. 
  • Put calamine lotion or a topical product with antihistamines on the rash. 
  • Try an over-the-counter (OTC) form of antihistamines like Diphenhydramine (Benadryl®) and cetirizine (Zyrtec®).
  • Take a daily cool bath or shower. 
  • Try an oatmeal bath. Pat dry, don’t rub. 

In Relation to Shingles

When you acquire chickenpox as a child, your body works to resist the varicella-zoster virus. While the physical signs of chickenpox may cease, the virus stays in your body forever. As adults, sometimes the virus becomes active again and makes its second appearance as shingles. Approximately one million cases of shingles are diagnosed annually in the United States. The risk of shingles increases as you get older, with nearly half the cases occurring in adults over 50. Shingles develop in about ten percent of people who have previously had chickenpox.

Cannabis and Skin Care

Cannabis, especially CBD, is highly prevalent in today’s society. CBD used to control pain and treat skin conditions can be traced back to ancient times, as it was abundant during religious practices and rituals.

The earliest uses of cannabis for skincare can be traced back to Ancient Egypt. Pharaoh Ramses II was known to partake in cannabis and encouraged others to use the plant. Back then, hemp assisted in creating buildings and textiles. During the 20th century, cannabis was extensively criminalized due to a societal outcry; however, changing laws and further research into the compounds within the plant led to a slow but vast reconsideration of their potential health benefits. The use of cannabis is becoming more widely accepted today due to the balancing effects of this particular cannabis-derived compound.

Can medical marijuana help? 

The Endocannabinoid System (ECS) works in several parts of the body, including the skin, which contains

  • Cannabinoid receptors
  • Skin nerve fibers
  • Hair follicles
  • Sweat glands
  • Oil glands

Because of the ECS in the skin can help significantly treat itching, eczema, acne, psoriasis, skin cancer, and more. Many patients with shingles also deal with extreme itching, which cannabis can help. Cannabinoids bind to fat cells, and there are a lot of cannabinoid and TRP receptors in the skin that both play a role in the onset of itching. Researchers studying atopic dermatitis, a type of eczema, believe that TRP receptors may serve as ionotropic cannabinoid receptors meaning they may assist in reducing pain and inflammation in the skin nerves.

Recent studies from medicine and health sciences professionals suggest that certain cannabis products may effectively treat the overactive immune system. It can connect with the cannabinoid receptors of the body to combat the proinflammatory t-cell responses needed.

It has been used to treat rare skin conditions, Crohn’s disease, neuropathic pain, particularly autoimmune disease, inflammatory bowel disease, acute psychosocial stress, and many other conditions. More research is needed to make an accurate scientific determination of the health benefits of medical marijuana.

Recent peer-reviewed studies within the dermatological science field show that CBD, as a complementary treatment with other medications and sometimes even as an oil or topical therapy for affected skin, offers potential benefits. Specific CBD dose-related effects may even provide an immune response in slowing cell growth so that new skin cells react differently.

Last Updated: July 25, 2023

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