What you need to know: Chickenpox

Chickenpox causes itchy, blister-like rashes all over the body. It starts to first appear on the chest, back, and face, and then spreads over the entire body.

It is a serious and highly contagious disease caused by the varicella-zoster virus (VZV). The best way to prevent chickenpox is to get the chickenpox vaccine.

Signs and Symptoms

Chickenpox can affect anyone, regardless of whether they have been affected before or not. It usually lasts around 4 to 7 days.

The main symptom of chickenpox is a rash that turns into itchy, fluid-filled blisters that eventually turn into scabs. The rash may first show up on the chest, back, and face, and then spread over the entire body, including inside the mouth, eyelids, or genital area. It usually takes about one week for all of the blisters to become scabs.

Other usual symptoms that may appear a few days before the rash are:

· fever

· tiredness

· loss of appetite

· headache

Chickenpox in Vaccinated People

Even people who have been vaccinated against chickenpox can get the disease. But it is likely that their symptoms are milder than normal chickenpox, with fewer or no blisters, mild or no fever, and for a shorter period of time. However, sometimes vaccinated people may have disease similar to unvaccinated people.


The virus spreads easily from people with chickenpox to others who have never had the disease or never been vaccinated. The virus spreads mainly through close contact with someone who has chickenpox. The varicella-zoster virus can also cause shingles. People with shingles can spread chickenpox to those who have never had it before, or have never been vaccinated.

It is important not to get into close contact with someone who is infected because they become contagious before a few days before the rash begins till all the chickenpox lesions have crusted (scabbed). Until no new lesions have appeared for 24 hours, they are still considered contagious.

Exposure with a person who has shingles or chicken pox could lead to the development of chicken pox after around three weeks of exposure. Even if a vaccinated person gets the disease, they are still contagious. However, usually once you are infected with chickenpox, you are immune to it for life, but in some rare cases you could still get it more than once.

Prevention and Treatment

Chickenpox vaccine is the best way to prevent chickenpox. If you have never had chickenpox or have never been vaccinated, you should get two doses of the vaccine. It is very rare to be infected if you are vaccinated, even if you do then the symptoms would be very mild.

Treatments at Home for People with Chickenpox

Some ways you can prevent skin infections and help calm chickenpox symptoms. Itching could be relieved by calamine lotion, and a cool bath with baking soda and oatmeal. It is important not to frequently scratch otherwise the virus could spread to others and a bacterial infection could occur. It is also advisable to keep your fingernails short.

Over-the-counter Medications

You should not use aspirin or products with aspirin to treat chickenpox fever as it is associated with Reye’s syndrome in children. You can use medications without aspirin to relieve the fever. According to the American Academy of Pediatrics, you should avoid using treatment with ibuprofen as it could cause life-threatening bacterial skin infections.

Sources: https://www.cdc.gov/chickenpox/index.html


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