Chickenpox (varicella) is a contagious illness
that causes an itchy rash and red spots or blisters (pox) all over the body. Chickenpox can cause
problems for pregnant women, newborns, teens and adults, and people who have
immune system problems that make it hard for the body
to fight infection.
Chickenpox usually isn't a serious health problem in healthy children. But a child with chickenpox needs to stay home from school. And you may need to miss work in order to care for your child.
After you have had chickenpox, you aren't
likely to get it again. But the virus stays in your body long after you get
over the illness. If the virus becomes active again, it can cause a painful
viral infection called
Chickenpox is caused by the varicella-zoster virus. It can spread easily.
You can get it from an infected person who sneezes, coughs, or shares food or
drinks. You can also get it if you touch the fluid from a chickenpox
A person who has chickenpox can spread the virus even
before he or she has any symptoms. Chickenpox is most easily spread from 2 to 3
days before the rash appears until all the blisters have crusted over.
You are at risk for chickenpox if you have never had the illness and haven't had the chickenpox vaccine. If someone you live with gets chickenpox, your
risk is even higher because of the close contact.
The first symptoms of
chickenpox usually develop about 14 to 16 days after
contact with a person infected with the virus. Most people feel sick and have a fever, a decreased appetite,
a headache, a cough, and a sore throat. The
itchy chickenpox rash usually appears about 1 or 2 days
after the first symptoms start.
chickenpox red spot appears, it usually takes about 1 or 2 days for the spot to
go through all its stages. This includes blistering, bursting, drying, and
crusting over. New red spots will appear every day for up to 5 to 7
It usually takes about 10 days after the
first symptoms before all blisters have crusted over. This is when the person with chickenpox can return to day care, school, or work.
Your doctor will ask
you about your symptoms and will examine you. This usually gives your doctor
enough information to find out if you have chickenpox.
A healthy child with chickenpox symptoms may not need to visit a doctor. You may be
able to describe your child's symptoms to the doctor over the phone.
Teenagers, adults, pregnant women, and people with
health problems need to see a doctor for chickenpox. This is especially
important for pregnant women, since chickenpox during pregnancy can cause
birth defects or serious newborn infection.