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Chickenpox (Varicella) - Prevention

The chickenpox, or varicella, virus spreads easily from person to person. If you have never had chickenpox or the chickenpox vaccine(What is a PDF document?), you have no immunity against the virus. This means that the virus can make you sick.

If you or your child is not immune, you can prevent chickenpox by getting the vaccine. It is recommended for:

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  • All healthy children 12 months of age and older who have not had chickenpox.
  • Healthy people who aren't sure if they've had the vaccine or chickenpox as a child.
  • Women who are planning to get pregnant but aren't pregnant yet.

For women who aren't immune, chickenpox and pregnancy can be a dangerous combination. Getting the vaccine when not pregnant prevents complications of chickenpox during pregnancy. Talk to your doctor about the right timing for the vaccine.

You can help prevent chickenpox by avoiding close contact with people infected with the virus. This is even more important if you have a weak immune system. But the virus can spread from an infected person even before symptoms develop.

Prevent chickenpox after being exposed to the virus

If you have been in contact with a person who has chickenpox and aren't sure if you are immune, a shot of the vaccine may prevent you from having the illness. Or it may make the illness milder.

If you can't have the chickenpox vaccine (for example, during pregnancy) a shot of antibodies (immunoglobulin) or an antiviral medicine may help delay or prevent the chickenpox.

For more information, see Medications.

Don't expose children to chickenpox

Before the chickenpox vaccine was available, families often had the virus for weeks at a time as it sickened one person, then the next. To "get it over with," some parents intentionally exposed their children to a child with chickenpox.

Now that the vaccine can protect against the virus, parents have a safer option than exposing their children to chickenpox. Do not expose a child to the chickenpox virus. Even young children can have serious (though rare) complications from the infection, including pneumonia or encephalitis.

    WebMD Medical Reference from Healthwise

    Last Updated: August 23, 2013
    This information is not intended to replace the advice of a doctor. Healthwise disclaims any liability for the decisions you make based on this information.
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