Chickenpox (Varicella) - Prevention
(varicella) is a common contagious illness caused by a type of herpes virus.
You can prevent chickenpox by getting the
chickenpox vaccine(What is a PDF document?). Many states require that
children entering day care and school have the vaccine unless they show proof
immunity (doctor's diagnosis or blood test results).
The vaccine works well and is recommended for:
- All healthy children 12 months
of age and older who have not had chickenpox. It is given in 2 doses: the first
at 12 to 15 months and the second at 4 to 6 years. Children age 12 and younger can get the MMRV shot(What is a PDF document?), which
contains the vaccines for measles,
mumps, and rubella as well as varicella. Talk to your doctor about the pros and cons of the MMRV shot.
- Older children and adults who have not had chickenpox or the chickenpox vaccine.
who do not know whether they had chickenpox as a child. It is safe for them to
receive the chickenpox vaccine even if they had chickenpox in the
- People who have not had chickenpox or the vaccine and have
been exposed to someone ill from the virus.
In rare cases,
people who have had the vaccine still get chickenpox. If this happens, you will
probably get a milder form of the illness, with fewer blisters and symptoms.
This is called a breakthrough infection. Talk with your doctor if you have
questions or concerns about the vaccine. For more information on routine
immunizations, see the topic
Some people can't get the chickenpox vaccine to help prevent chickenpox. But they may be able to get a shot of chickenpox
antibodies instead. The antibodies work best when they are given soon after exposure to the virus. If you
have been in contact with a person who has chickenpox and are not sure whether
you are immune, talk with your doctor about whether you should
have either the chickenpox vaccine or antibodies.
You can help
prevent chickenpox by avoiding close contact with people infected with the
virus. This is particularly important if you have an
impaired immune system. But the virus can spread from
an infected person even before symptoms develop. Chickenpox spreads quickly
among people who are in close contact with each other in confined spaces, such
as children in small classrooms or people who share bedrooms. It may be
hard to prevent chickenpox from spreading after the rash develops.
Women who want to become pregnant and have never had chickenpox should
think about being tested for immunity or get the vaccine to prevent
complications of chickenpox during pregnancy.
Don't expose children to chickenpox
not intentionally expose children to chickenpox. It is not safer for children to have the infection when they are
younger than when they are older. Even young
children can have serious (though rare) complications from the infection,
encephalitis. And it is not possible to know which
children will develop complications.
Prevent the spread of chickenpox
If you or your
child has chickenpox, don't return to work, school, or day care until after all
blisters have crusted over, usually about 10 days after the first symptoms
start. To help
prevent spreading chickenpox, stay away from people
who aren't immune.