Chickenpox is a highly contagious childhood infection caused by the varicella zoster virus. The condition causes a very itchy, blistery rash and usually a fever. The chickenpox virus spreads through the air, such as when an infected person sneezes or coughs, and by direct contact. Chickenpox once was very common, but the number of those infected has significantly dropped since the development of a vaccine to prevent the infection. Being exposed to the chickenpox virus also raises your risk for a painful condition called shingles later in life. Follow the links below to find WebMD's comprehensive coverage about how chickenpox is contracted, what it looks like, how to treat it, and much more.
Chicken Pox: Contagiousness, Who Gets It, and How It Spreads
Chickenpox is caused by the contagious varicella virus and mainly affects children. It’s easy to spot because of its red, itchy rash, mild fever, and body aches.
Chickenpox Symptoms: Warning Signs Beyond the Rash
Chickenpox is best known for its itchy, spotted rash. But there are many other symptoms that develop when you catch the virus.
Chickenpox Prevention: How To Prevent Chickenpox From Spreading
Don't risk letting your child get chickenpox and learn about the best way to prevent your family from contracting the virus.
Young Childhood Immunizations
Learn more about childhood immunizations -- what shots your child should get and when -- from the experts at WebMD.
Slideshows & Images
Picture of the Chickenpox Rash
Varicella Chickenpox. Varicella Chickenpox is caused by a virus of the herpes group. The disease is highly contagious and is spread by droplet or direct contact. The incubation period for chickenpox ranges from 11 to 21 days. Prodromal symptoms consist of low-grade fever, headache, anorexia, and malaise. On the following day, the characteristic rash begins to appear. The lesions evolve from erythematous macules to form small papules. Quickly, a clear vesicle arises on this erythematous base. The classic lesion of chickenpox has been poetically described as a “dewdrop on a rose petal.” Over the next several days, the vesicles rupture and then crust. The rash begins on the chest and back and spreads centrifugally to involve the face, scalp, and the extremities. New lesions of chickenpox arise in crops over a period of several days.
Picture of Varicella-Zoster Virus Infection on Chest Wall
Varicella-zoster virus infection: herpes zoster in T8 to T10 dermatomes. Typical grouped vesicles and pustules with erythema and edema of three contiguous thoracic dermatomes on the posterior chest wall.
Picture of Shingles Blisters
The cluster of blisters that form with shingles fill with fluid, pop, then start to ooze. Eventually the affected areas crust over and heal like the rash shown here.
Shingles Symptoms, Causes, and Treatments
Caused by the same virus behind chickenpox, shingles is a painful nerve root infection resulting in a skin rash. What does the shingles rash looks like? Who’s at risk? And who needs the shingles vaccine? Get your questions answered here.