Varicella-zoster virus (VZV) causes the chickenpox infection. Most cases occur through contact with an infected person. The virus is contagious to those around you for one to two days before your blisters appear. VZV remains contagious until all blisters have crusted over. The virus can spread through:
Chickenpox, which is caused by the varicella-zoster virus, is highly contagious, and it can spread quickly. The virus is transmitted by direct contact with the rash or by droplets dispersed into the air by coughing or sneezing.
Your risk of catching chickenpox is higher if you:
Most people who have had
chickenpox or have been vaccinated against chickenpox are immune to chickenpox.
If you've been vaccinated and still get chickenpox, symptoms are often milder,
with fewer blisters and mild or no fever. A few people can get chickenpox more
than once, but this is rare.
Chickenpox infection appears 10 to 21 days after exposure to the virus and usually lasts about five to 10 days. The rash is the telltale indication of chickenpox. Other signs and symptoms, which may appear one to two days before the rash, include:
Once the chickenpox rash appears, it goes through three phases:
New bumps continue to appear for several days. As a result, you may have all three stages of the rash — bumps, blisters and scabbed lesions — at the same time on the second day of the rash. Once infected, you can spread the virus for up to 48 hours before the rash appears, and you remain contagious until all spots crust over.
The disease is generally mild
in healthy children. In severe cases, the rash can spread to cover the entire
body, and lesions may form in the throat, eyes and mucous membranes of the
urethra, anus and vagina. New spots continue to appear for several days.
Doctors generally diagnose chickenpox based on the telltale rash.
If there's any doubt about the diagnosis, chickenpox can be confirmed with laboratory tests, including blood tests or a culture of lesion samples.
Chickenpox generally resolves within a week or two without treatment. There is no cure, but a vaccine can prevent it.
A doctor may prescribe medication or advise on how to reduce symptoms of itchiness and discomfort, and also on how to prevent the infection from spreading to other people.
Pain or fever: Tylenol (acetaminophen), which is available to purchase online, may help with symptoms of high temperature and pain. It is important to follow the instructions provided by the manufacturer. Aspirin containing products should NOT be used for chickenpox as this can lead to complications. Acetaminophen (Tylenol) can be used at any time during pregnancy.
Avoiding dehydration: It is important to drink plenty of fluids, preferably water, to prevent dehydration. Some doctors recommend sugar-free popsicles or Pedialyte for children who are not drinking enough.
Mouth soreness: Sugar-free popsicles help ease symptoms of soreness if there are spots in the mouth. Salty or spicy foods should be avoided. If chewing is painful, soup might be a good option, but it should not be too hot.
Itchiness: ltchiness can become severe, but it is important to minimize scratching to reduce the risk of scarring.
The following may help prevent scratching:
Antiviral medication may be prescribed during pregnancy, for adults who get an early diagnosis, in newborns, and for those with a weakened immune system. Acyclovir is one example.
This works best if it is given within 24 hours of developing
symptoms. Acyclovir reduces the severity of symptoms but does not cure the
The chickenpox (varicella) vaccine is the best way to prevent chickenpox. Experts from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) estimate that the vaccine provides complete protection from the virus for nearly 98 percent of people who receive both of the recommended doses. When the vaccine doesn't provide complete protection, it significantly lessens the severity of the disease.
The chickenpox vaccine (Varivax) is recommended for
If you've had chickenpox, you don't need the chickenpox vaccine. A case of the chickenpox usually makes a person immune to the virus for life. It's possible to get chickenpox more than once, but this isn't common. However, if you're older than 60, talk to your doctor about the shingles vaccine.
The chickenpox vaccine isn't approved for
Talk to your doctor if you're unsure about your need for the vaccine. If you're planning on becoming pregnant, consult with your doctor to make sure you're up to date on your vaccinations before conceiving a child.