What Are the Symptoms of Chickenpox?

Symptoms of chickenpox typically appear within 10 to 21 days after you’ve been exposed to the virus. The first sign is usually a general feeling of being unwell. That’s normally followed by these symptoms:

  • Body aches
  • Fever
  • Feeling extremely tired (fatigue)
  • Feeling irritable
  • Loss of appetite
  • Headache

Within a day or 2, you’ll develop the telltale chickenpox rash. It unfolds in three phases.

During the first phase, you’ll develop itchy, raised, pink or red bumps. Doctors call these “papules.” As many as 250 to 500 of them can pop up all over your body. In severe cases, they can even form in your mouth, eyes, anus, or genitals.

Over the next several days, these bumps will turn into small, fluid-filled blisters called “vesicles.” They last about a day before they pop and start to leak.

Finally, these open wounds crust over and turn into scabs. As they heal, new bumps continue to appear. You could have bumps, blisters, and scabs at the same time. You can spread the virus to other people until all the spots crust over. 

Most cases of chickenpox are mild and go away on their own. But see your doctor right away if you develop any of the following symptoms:

  • The rash spreads to one or both eyes
  • The rash gets very red, warm, or tender. You could have a bacterial skin infection.
  • Dizziness
  • Shortness of breath
  • Vomiting
  • Stiff neck
  • You can’t control your muscles
  • Fever over 102 F
WebMD Medical Reference Reviewed by Dan Brennan, MD on March 14, 2017

Sources

SOURCES:

PubMed Health: “Varicella (Chickenpox).”

National Foundation for Infectious Diseases: “Facts about Chickenpox for Adults.”

Mayo Clinic: “Chickenpox.”

KidsHealth: “Chickenpox,” “What Makes Chickenpox Itch?”

New York State Department of Health: “Chickenpox.”

MedlinePlus: “Chickenpox.”

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