Beginner’s Guide to Understanding Smallpox Symptoms in Child

Navigating the vast landscape of children’s health can be daunting for any parent. Smallpox used to be a common sickness that many children faced. Even though it’s been gone for a long time, knowing its symptoms is still helpful for parents. This guide focuses on the specific presentation of symptoms of small pox in babies.

Early Symptoms of Small Pox in Babies

Like many illnesses, smallpox in newborn babies and infants begins with symptoms often mistaken for less severe conditions. These early symptoms include:

  • Fever
  • Fatigue
  • Headache
  • Backache
  • Occasional vomiting

Within two days of these initial symptoms of small pox in babies, a rash appears. Notably, this phase can be confusing as these symptoms resemble other childhood illnesses. Therefore, always consider a professional opinion.

The Telltale Rash: Symptoms of Small Pox in Babies Rash

Arguably, the most distinguishable feature of smallpox is its rash. About two days after the initial symptoms, you’ll notice a rash primarily on the face, arms, and legs. This rash:

  • Begins as small, red spots
  • Develops into raised bumps
  • Progresses into fluid-filled blisters
  • Ends as scabs which eventually fall off

The distribution and progression of the rash are often the most indicative signs of pox virus symptoms in child.

symptoms of small pox in babies

Small Pox Duration in Infants

For parents, it’s vital to understand how long these symptoms might persist. The overall duration of smallpox in infants spans roughly:

  • 4 days of high fever before the rash
  • About 4 days of the rash in its initial stages
  • Approximately 5-7 days, during which blisters form and fill with pus
  • A further two weeks during which these pustules crust, dry up, and fall off

In total, expect the entire duration of the disease to last about a month, though the severity may vary from one baby to another.

Small Pox Scars in Babies

One of the most visible and lasting remnants of smallpox infection is the scars it can leave behind, particularly in babies with delicate and developing skin. While the primary focus is treating and managing the disease, attention to the resultant scarring is equally crucial.

Let’s explain why and the methods to prevent or minimize these scars in babies.

Why Prevent Smallpox Scars in Babies?

  1. Aesthetic Concerns: The most apparent reason to prevent scars is their permanent marks on the skin. These pockmarks, especially if on visible areas like the face, can become a source of self-consciousness in the future.
  2. Emotional and Psychological Impacts: Scars can serve as constant reminders of the illness. As a child grows, these scars can lead to questions, discomfort, or emotional distress related to the disease.
  3. Physical Health: Deep or extensive scarring can sometimes cause discomfort or affect the normal function of the skin. For instance, scars can be less flexible than regular skin, which might limit motion, especially if they’re near joints.

How to Prevent or Minimize Scarring:

1.      Proper Wound Care:

  • Cleanliness: Regularly and gently cleaning the pustules can prevent secondary bacterial infections, which can exacerbate scarring.
  • Moisturizing: Keeping the skin hydrated can aid in its natural healing process. Use mild baby moisturizers, but ensure they don’t further irritate the skin or pimples.
  • Avoid Scratching: This is crucial. Scratching or picking at the scabs can increase the risk of scarring. It might be challenging, especially if the baby is irritable, but consider using mittens or soft baby gloves to prevent them from scratching.

2.      Medical Interventions:

  • Topical Treatments: Once the initial stage of the disease has passed, and if the paediatrician agrees, you can use topical treatments designed to reduce scarring.
  • Silicone Gel Sheets: Used in treating various scars, these sheets can help flatten and soften the appearance of fresh scars.

3.      Seek Specialist Advice:

While the primary focus when dealing with smallpox is undoubtedly managing the disease and ensuring the baby’s well-being, considering the aftermath, such as potential scarring, is vital. Through diligent care, awareness, and possibly medical interventions, the lasting impacts of smallpox on a baby’s skin can be minimized or even prevented.

Smallpox Treatment in Babies

When it comes to the health of your precious one, being equipped with the proper knowledge is invaluable. Though smallpox has been eradicated since 1980, understanding its treatment remains historically significant and pertinent for rare scenarios.

Here’s a detailed look at the smallpox treatment for babies.

1.     Absence of a Direct Cure

To begin with, it’s crucial to understand that smallpox, a viral illness, does not have a direct cure. It might initially seem problematic, but many viral diseases function similarly, and the focus rests on managing the symptoms of small pox in babies and ensuring the body’s robust response.

2.     Treating Symptoms: Making Your Baby Comfortable

While there isn’t a cure per se, there are several ways to alleviate the symptoms of smallpox in newborn babies:

  • Hydration: Ensuring your baby stays well-hydrated helps the body combat the fever and other symptoms effectively.
  • Fever and Pain Management: Over-the-counter medicines like acetaminophen can be given to manage the fever. However, always following the paediatrician’s guidelines and dosage recommendations is imperative.
  • Constant Monitoring: Regular health check-ups during the illness ensure any complications are spotted and managed promptly.

3.     Addressing Secondary Infections

Due to the characteristic pustules of smallpox, there’s a risk of secondary bacterial infections. When these arise:

  • Antibiotics: These can be administered to tackle any concurrent bacterial infections. It’s worth noting that these are not for treating the smallpox virus but for secondary infections.
  • Wound Care: Proper skin care and wound management are vital. It includes gently cleaning and keeping affected areas covered to deter further infections.

4.     Preventing Contagion: The Importance of Isolation

Given that smallpox is contagious:

  • Infected babies would typically be isolated to stem the spread of the virus.
  • Such isolation measures involve keeping the child away from public places and schools and minimizing contact with family members until they’re no longer contagious.

5.     The Role of Vaccination in Treatment

While not a direct ‘treatment’, the smallpox vaccine plays a pivotal role in managing the disease:

  • Vaccination could be considered even after exposure if there were a rare case or outbreak. It can significantly reduce the severity of the disease and is a crucial aspect of containment strategies.
  • Routine vaccination has ceased due to eradication. However, the vaccine remains invaluable in specific scenarios, such as potential exposure.

In the realm of health, understanding how ailments are treated, even those eradicated, equips us better to navigate the health and well-being of our loved ones. Always remember, in any health scenario, seeking the advice and care of health professionals ensures the best outcomes for your child.

Long-Term Side Effects of Smallpox in Child

While the scars are the most visible long-term reminders of smallpox, there can be other lasting impacts. These might include:

  1. Joint pain
  2. Vision problems due to corneal ulcers
  3. Potential complications in other organs, like the lungs

It’s essential to closely monitor any child who has recovered from smallpox for any signs of these complications and to consult with healthcare professionals to ensure the child’s overall well-being.

Read more about disease common in childhood.


The journey of understanding smallpox symptoms in child can be daunting, especially for new parents. Though eradicated, smallpox’s historical and potential bioterrorism relevance makes knowledge about it imperative. By staying informed and understanding the symptoms, duration, and potential impacts of the disease, parents can be better prepared to ensure the safety and health of their little ones.

Always consult with healthcare professionals if you suspect any illness in your child. Your baby’s health and well-being are paramount. This article has provided valuable information to help parents understand the symptoms of small pox in babies and the importance of seeking medical advice.

How do you treat smallpox in babies?

There is no specific treatment for smallpox. Treatment is supportive and includes providing fluids, pain relief, and managing fever. Antibiotics are ineffective against viruses and are not used to treat smallpox.

Does smallpox affect babies?

Yes, smallpox can affect babies. Babies are at higher risk for severe complications from smallpox than older children and adults.

How do babies get smallpox?

Babies can get smallpox from contact with the virus from an infected person. The virus can be spread through respiratory droplets, direct contact with the rash, or contact with contaminated objects.

What age group is at risk for smallpox?

People of all ages are at risk for smallpox, but babies and young children are at higher risk for severe complications.

Do newborns still get smallpox vaccine?

No, newborns do not get the smallpox vaccine. The smallpox vaccine is no longer routinely given in the United States because smallpox has been eradicated. However, the vaccine is still available for people at high risk of exposure to the virus, such as laboratory workers and healthcare workers.

How many children died from smallpox?

Smallpox was a very deadly disease. About 3 out of every 10 people with smallpox died. Most of the deaths from smallpox occurred in children under the age of 5.

I'm a Doctor and a Blogger. I started blogging mainly to help others who may be going through similar situations. I hope that by sharing his own experiences, I can offer some guidance or comfort to those dealing with similar issues.

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