Chickenpox, everything you need to know.

Chickenpox, everything you need to know.




Everything you need to know about the chickenpox

  • Preventable by vaccine
  • Usually self-treatable
  • Spreads easily
  • Usually self-diagnosable
  • Lab tests or imaging rarely required
  • Short-term: resolves within days or weeks


  • Chickenpox is highly contagious to those who haven’t had the disease or been vaccinated against it
  • The most characteristic symptoms is an itchy, blister-like rash on the skin
  • Chickenpox can be prevented by a vaccine; treatment usually involves relieving symptoms although high-risk groups may receive antiviral medications
  • Ages affected:
    • More likely in 0-18 less likely 19-60+

How it spreads:

  • By mother to baby by pregnancy, labor, or nursing
  • By airborne respiratory droplets (coughs or sneezes)
  • By skin-to-skin contact (handshakes or hugs)
  • By saliva (kissing or shared drinks)
  • By touching a contaminated surface (blanket or doorknob)


Chickenpox usually begins with a fever, headache, sore throat, or stomachache. All of the symptoms may last for a few days, with the temperature in the 101-102 degree range. Chickenpox causes a red, itchy skin rash that usually appears first on the abdomen or back and face, then spreads to almost everywhere else on the body, this includes the scalp, mouth, arms, legs, and genitals. The rashes begin as multiple small red bumps that look like pimples or insect bites, usually less than a quarter of an inch wide. They appear in crops over two to four days and develop into thin-walled blisters filled with fluid. The blister walls break, leaving open sores, which finally crust over to become dry, brown scabs. These stages can appear on the body all at the same time. The rash may be more extensive or severe in kids who have skin disorders like eczema or weak immune systems.


Chickenpox virus spreads both through the air in many different ways, shown below. Chickenpox is contagious from about two days before the rash appears until all the blisters are crusted over. If a child has chickenpox, staying out of school until all blisters have dried, which is usually one week, is the best option. If you are unsure about whether your child is ready to return, ask your doctor. Most kids with a sibling who’s been infected also will get it; this is only if they have not already had the disease or the vaccine. Be aware that people who have not had the chickenpox or the vaccine can also catch it from someone with shingles, but they can not catch shingles itself because it can only develop from a reactivation of VZV found in someone who has previously had chickenpox.


The chickenpox vaccine is 99% effective at preventing the VZV infection in kids. We recommend the kids receive the chickenpox vaccine twice:

  • A first injection when they are 12 to 15 months old
  • A booster shot when they are four to six years old

People at the age of 13 or older who have never had chickenpox or haven’t gotten the vaccine should receive two doses of vaccine at least 28 days apart to be protected. One percent of who have been vaccinated actually develops chickenpox, those who do tend to develop very mild cases of the condition and recover quickly. The children who have had chickenpox do not need the vaccine because they usually have lifelong protection against the disease.


Since a virus causes chickenpox, doctors to treat it will not prescribe antibiotics. Antibiotics are only used if bacteria infect the sores, this is pretty common among kids because they often scratch and pick at the blisters. If people are at risk for complications, an antiviral medicine may be prescribed; this depends on the age and health of the child, the extent of the infection, and the timing of the treatment.


  • To help relieve the 6 0 itchiness, fever, and discomfort of chickenpox:
  • Use cool wet compresses or give baths in cool or lukewarm water every 3 to 4 hours for the first few days (oatmeal bath products can help relieve itching)
  • Pat (DO NOT RUB) the body dry
  • Put calamine lotion on itchy areas (do not use it on the face, primarily the eyes)
  • Serve foods that are cold, soft, and bland because chickenpox in the mouth can make drinking or eat difficultly. (avoid acidic or salty foods)
  • Ask you doctor or pharmacist about pain-relieving creams to apply to sores in the genital area
  • Ask the doctor about using over-the-counter medicine for itching
  • NEVER USE ASPIRIN to reduce pain or fever in kids with chickenpox

Most chickenpox infections don’t need special medical treatment. But sometimes, there are problems. Call your doctor is your child:

  • Has fever that lasts for more than four days or rises above 102 degrees
  • Has a severe cough or trouble breathing
  • Has an area of rash that leaks pus (thick, yellowish fluid) or becomes red, warm, swollen, or sore
  • Has a severe headache
  • Is unusually drowsy or has trouble waking up
  • Has trouble looking at bright lights
  • Has difficulty walking
  • Seems confused
  • Seems very ill or is vomiting
  • Has a stiff neck

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