Chickenpox is more common in children under 10 years old. Other factors that may increase your chance of chickenpox include:
- Close contact with an infected person, unless you have been vaccinated or have already had chickenpox
- Conditions or medications that suppress your immune system, such as cancer, HIV infection, an organ transplant, or high-dose steroid use
- Time of year—late winter, early spring
Symptoms break out about 10-21 days after contact. They are more severe in adults than they are in children.
Initial symptoms include:
- Mild headache
- Moderate fever
- Sore throat
- Severe itch
- Lack of appetite
- General feeling of discomfort
- Abdominal pain
The rash appears within 1-2 days after the first symptoms. The rash:
Begins with small, flat, red spots:
- Spots become raised and form a round, intensely itchy, fluid-filled blister
- Blisters develop in clusters, with new clusters forming over 5-6 days
- Usually develops into patches on the skin above the waist, including the scalp
- May also appear on the eyelids, in the mouth, upper airway, voice box, or on the genitals
- Typically crusts over by day 6 or 7 and disappears within 3 weeks
Chickenpox is mild in most people. It will naturally run its course. In these cases, treatment focuses on relieving the symptoms.
To Reduce Itching
It may be difficult to avoid scratching. Itchiness can be reduced with:
- Wet compresses
- Over-the-counter anti-itch creams or lotions
- Oatmeal baths
- Oral antihistamine medication
Note: Aspirin is not recommended for children with a current or recent viral infection. Check with your doctor before giving your child aspirin.
Antibiotics cannot cure infections caused by a virus. However, they may be given if the rash becomes infected with bacteria.
The course, severity, and duration of the infection may be reduced by antiviral medications.
They are often used in:
- Adolescents, adults, and individuals with weak immune systems
- Individuals with chronic skin or lung diseases and those taking aspirin or steroids
Varicella-zoster immune globulin is often given immediately after exposure. It is reserved for newborns and people with weak immune systems.
Avoid contact with anyone who has chickenpox. This is important if you have not been vaccinated against the infection.
Vaccination in Children
The varicella vaccine , or a combination vaccine called MMRV, is recommended for most children. MMRV protects against measles , mumps , rubella , and varicella.
There is a catch-up schedule if your child has missed the routine injections.
Vaccination in Adults
Adults who have never had chickenpox or received the varicella vaccine should be vaccinated.
Vaccination After Exposure
If you or your child has not been vaccinated, but are exposed to chickenpox, a vaccine given right away may help lessen the severity of the infection, or prevent the infection.
This content is reviewed regularly and is updated when new and relevant evidence is made available. This information is neither intended nor implied to be a substitute for professional medical advice. Always seek the advice of your physician or other qualified health provider prior to starting any new treatment or with questions regarding a medical condition.
Edits to original content made by Denver Health.
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Centers for Disease Control and Prevention http://www.cdc.gov
Family Doctor—American Academy of Family Physicians http://familydoctor.org
About Kids Health—The Hospital for Sick Children http://www.aboutkidshealth.ca
College of Family Physicians of Canada http://www.cfpc.ca
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