Old-School Chinese Chickenpox Pantang-Larang

We Chinese have a way of making people who are unwell even more miserable. There are taboos for every of ailment. Chickenpox is no exception. There is this long list of food that I am told to avoid. No soya sauce because that will cause the scars to darken. No eggs because it will cause the sores to be pustulant. No chicken, fish, prawns, crabs and any other kind of seafood and these are considered toxins and may affect the health and healing when taken during the recuperation period. And then there is the no oily food for some reasons I cannot seem to recall now.

Mee sua soup with sliced pork and choy sum
Mee sua soup with sliced pork and choy sum.

That whittled down on my already restricted diet even more. So for the first few days, it was either porridge or mee sua (flour vermicelli) pork slices and choy sum (Chinese flowering cabbage). Bland food like these are really hard to stomach after a few meals. What made it worse was the pungent smelling concoction of traditional Chinese medicine for chicken pox. Wuan bought it from the Chinese medical hall. It had to be boiled for two hours in two glasses of water. This was supposed to be cooling and hasten the blistering phase. Luckily I had to drink twice over a period of two days only. Now, the only cooling drink is refreshing coconut water which is like nectar to my lips compared to the concoctions from the Chinese medical hall.

Traditional Chinese medicine to cool down chickenpox infection
Traditional Chinese medicine to cool down chickenpox infection.
Photo by Wuan.

The fever persisted for three days which was brought down with Panadol. When the itch began, I took a dose of Loratadine. That did not help at all. So I was back to scratching around the lesions, careful not to burst them, which I failed occasionally. New lesions have stopped breaking out since yesterday. The ones on the face have started to scab up. Those on my shoulders, chest, back, abdomen, groin and legs are slowly drying up. The ones on the scrotum are the most painful one. There are even a few on the penis.

Chickenpox lesions on my hips
Chickenpox lesions on my hips. Taken on January 12, 2009.
Photo by Wuan.

By the end of the week, I will be on the rebound from this horrible chickenpox infection. However, I am not out of the woods yet. I have to continue on a restricted diet devoid of food with toxins, poultry and seafood for 100 days. These include dishes that contain belacan (dried shrimp paste) and heh ko (shrimp paste). These two are very potent toxins that is believed to cause the chickenpox lesions in the internal organs to turn nasty. So no perut ikan, chee cheong fun, laksa and rojak for a full three months. There is a longer list of taboos like avoiding exposure to dew, rain and breeze, and staying away from beans and foodstuff made with it. This is what I heard lar. I may not be that disciplined to follow them all. But then again, is it not better to be safe than sorry? But this is the Chinese New Year season!!!

Author: Peter Tan

Peter Gabriel Tan. Penangite residing in the Klang Valley. Blissfully married to Wuan. A LaSallian through and through. Slave to three cats. Wheelchair user since 1984. End-stage renal disease since 2017. Principal Facilitator at Peter Tan Training specialising in Disability Equality Training. Former columnist of Breaking Barriers with The Borneo Post. This blog chronicles my life, thoughts and opinions. Connect with me on Twitter and Facebook.

5 thoughts on “Old-School Chinese Chickenpox Pantang-Larang”

  1. Get that pintarsol dude.It works and will relief that itch.I use it when I get dry skin itch/rash from my journeys.You will be happy with the results.

    The itch has subsided but I will definitely check it out when I am at the pharmacy. I do get other kind of itch once in a while. 😛

  2. Hey bro- it doesn’t cure the seven year variety.Only a sledgehammer from the missus cures that.

    I just passed the 1 year mark. 6 years more to hit that phase. Haha.

  3. No pictures of the lesions on the penis? Or is the 3rd picture it?

    This is a G-Rated blog. How lar to show those photos? #rd picture? Wow, you really think that highly of me huh! ;P

  4. Hi Peter,

    Strange as this may sound, i had a whopper of a time reading all your posts about your tryst with the big bad CP.
    Ok, jokes apart – i need your help. My husband is 36 and he’s got it. Now 2 quick questions:
    1. Did you have to cut out the salt from your food? Coz we have been told that he must only eat boiled, bland food with almost no salt. And yes – to forget about sea-food and poultry for a while. ?

    2. What is the scene with bathing? The doc says go ahead – only, don’t use soap. Some websites say bathe with oatmeal (but nothing about how one can do that. I have no idea!), and people around are 100% sure that it’s best not to bathe. I cannot live with an unbathed, stinky man for 2 days… let aside 2 weeks! So… what did you do when you were down with it? Did you bathe?

    Oh, and.. one more thing… considering i haven’t had it in childhood, do you think there’s a chance i’ll escape it and won’t get it? Ok don’t bother answering that one – at least there i know what the right answer 🙁

    Thanks in anticipation


    Ren, my unqualified opinion. Take with a pinch of salt. If you are a Chinese, there are 1001 taboos to adhere to. I did add some salt to my bland food of flour vermicelli, vegetables and pork slices to make it more palatable. I was not told to avoid salt. As for bathing, I did avoid bathing for the first few days to avoid busting the blisters but after the fourth of fifth day, I bathed very gently with soap to avoid busting the blisters. As for your last question, I will answer it anyway. I thought I escaped after hitting the mid-thirties. Look what happened to me. 🙂 Take care and here’s wishing your hubby a quick recovery.

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