Star foods for chicken pox: almond, apricot, beetroot, blackcurrant, blueberry, butternut squash, cantaloupe melon, carrot, cashew nut, cinnamon, citrus fruits, egg, garlic, ginger, guava, kiwi fruit, mango, oats, onion, papaya, parsley, pumpkin seed, raspberry, strawberry, sunflower seed, sweet potato, tofu, walnut
Chicken pox is a highly infectious childhood disease caused by the varicella-zoster virus from the herpes family. Most children will contract chicken pox at some time during their childhood as it is spread very easily through coughing, sneezing and even talking. The incubation period for the disease is two weeks and a child with chicken pox is contagious for one to two days before any of the symptoms appear until all the spots have scabbed over. This usually takes between nine and 12 days.
The first symptom of chicken pox is usually a fever, sometimes accompanied by a headache. Your child will not feel well, as with any virus. After a day or two, little blisters begin to appear, starting on the chest and back and then spreading to the rest of the body. A child or baby with very mild chicken pox may get only a few of them. Equally, a particularly aggressive strain can cause hundreds of spots all over the body as well as in the mouth, ears, eyes and bottom. In families where there are several siblings, the child who contracts chicken pox first is likely to get the mildest dose. As it is passed on to another child, the symptoms become more aggressive. During the eruptive phase of chicken pox, each and every individual spot can be extremely itchy.
Medicinal foods for chicken pox
Chicken pox can leave scars, especially if your child scratches the spots a great deal. Supplying your child with foods rich in beta-carotene, vitamin C and flavonoids will help in the healing of skin tissue and the mucous membranes often damaged by the virus.
A recent study showed that chicken pox can deplete a child's vitamin A levels for several months. Including plenty of orange, red, and dark green vegetables and fruit in your child's diet will ensure that she is receiving plenty of beta-carotene, the plant form of vitamin A, which her body can then convert into the crucial vitamin at her own requirement level. Retinol, which is the active form of vitamin A found in animal-based foods such as egg, liver and dairy products, can be toxic in excess. Therefore, boosting beta-carotene levels in very young children is always the safest option when trying to increase their levels of vitamin A.
A child with chicken pox will not often feel like eating much, so preparing fresh juices and smoothies made from some of the fruits and vegetables which are star foods for chicken pox will supply plenty of antioxidants to help in the healing process.
Some children get chicken pox in their throats. If this is the case with your child, try giving her fresh fruit juice ice pops, which can be very comforting. You can use any fruits or fruit juices for this but blackcurrants are particularly good as they are full of both vitamin C, which helps to fight the infection and repair the skin, and anthocyanins, phytonutrients that multiply vitamin C's antioxidant power as well as having anti-inflammatory properties.
Making sure that your child drinks plenty of fluids is vital, as this will prevent dehydration, especially if a fever is present. Offering water bottles and juices through straws or from a teaspoon may help to encourage your young child or baby to take in fluid. For babies over the age of six months who are no longer being breastfed, avoid dairy formulas if a fever is present and offer almond or rice milks during the acute phase of the illness instead. Infants who are still being breastfed will receive plenty of immune-boosting substances through the breast milk.
During the illness prepare meals that are rich in nutrients and low in sugar, saturated fat and salt. Do not be tempted to give your child sweets, chocolate or sugar-laden yoghurts in an attempt to get them to eat something. Sick children rarely want to eat and enticing them to eat such foods will only further suppress their immune systems. Once your child starts to feel better, complement the drinks by offering comforting soups and broths. Include plenty of garlic, which contains antiviral substances. Nuts and seeds offered as snacks or as part of a meal are a good source of energy and are rich in essential fatty acids, zinc and B-vitamins, all of which aid the healing process.
Echinacea and golden seal are two herbs that can help fight the infection and strengthen your child's immune defences. Golden seal is also antipyretic (fever reducing) so is additionally beneficial. These two herbs can be found in health food shops and are easily added to drinks in tincture form at an appropriate dosage for age.
Extracted from Immunity Foods for Healthy Kids by Lucy Burney, text © 2004, published by Duncan Baird Publishers, London.