Chickenpox is one of the most common childhood diseases. It is
caused by the varicella virus and is highly contagious (the disease
spreads easily from an infected person with direct contact or
airborne exposure). Direct contact includes skin contact with open
blisters without a scab. Airborne exposure is from the infected
person coughing or sneezing. A person is contagious 24 hours before
getting the blisters and for 6 days after the rash forms. Chickenpox
occurs most often in children 6-10 years old. Risk of getting the
disease increases during the winter and early spring, infants under
1 year old, unborn babies whose mother gets chickenpox, people with
weakened immune systems, children with eczema or other skin
conditions, and children who have received salicylate (aspirin-type
medications). Adults who get chickenpox often have a severe case and
may need to be hospitalized.
Symptoms may include:
• Skin rash beginning at the scalp and moving down the body to the
face, arms, and legs. The skin rash turns into as many as 250-500
itchy blisters, which will dry up and scab 2-4 days later.
• Mild fever and possible chills
• Headaches, runny nose, slight cough
• Loss of appetite, fussiness, fatigue.
WHAT YOUR DOCTOR CAN DO:
• Diagnose the problem by asking about your symptoms, doing a
physical exam, and possible laboratory blood tests.
• Treat the rash if it becomes infected.
WHAT YOU CAN DO:
• Keep the fingernails trimmed and clean to prevent infection with
scratching. Encourage your child not to scratch the blisters. In
infants or very young children, mittens or socks over the hands may
• Give Acetaminophen (Tylenol) for fever, headache, and fussiness.
Do not give aspirin to children because it has been associated with
Reye's Syndrome, a disease that harms the liver and brain.
• Wash hands frequently to prevent the spreading of the virus.
• Bathe daily in lukewarm water using oatmeal, baking soda, or
Aveeno to help soothe the itching.
• Apply Calamine lotion to the blisters to help soothe the itching.
Vaccinate your child. A chickenpox vaccine called Varicella is
• Children over 1 year can be vaccinated
• Most children do not have any side effects from the vaccine
• Some children will experience a mild fever, redness and soreness
at the injections site, stiffness, nausea and fussiness
• A few will experience a mild rash 1 month after the vaccine was
WHAT YOU CAN EXPECT:
• Complete recovery in 7-10 days. If scratching opens the scabs,
scars will form.
• Chickenpox may return as Shingles in adults, usually over age 50.
This is a very painful disorder involving the nerve roots. It causes
numbness, itching and severe pain.
CALL 1061 OR SEEK IMMEDIATE MEDICAL
ASSISTANCE If your child's fever is above 102°F for 4 or
more days or the blisters get very red, tender and warm (indicating
a possible infection).