Chickenpox is a highly contagious infection characterized by an itchy rash made up of red, fluid-filled blisters (pox), and flu-like symptoms. Both the rash and the other symptoms can usually be effectively treated with over-the-counter medication and home remedies, though an antiviral drug may be prescribed.
Once regarded as an inevitable disease of childhood, chickenpox has become less common since the advent of the chickenpox vaccine. Though an initial bout of chickenpox usually resolves in a few days or weeks, the virus that causes chickenpox never leaves the body and can reemerge after decades to trigger a painful illness called shingles in older adults.
The chickenpox vaccine became available in 1995. The vaccine, marketed as Varivax and included in ProQuad combination vaccine (MMRV), protects against the varicella-zoster virus (VZV) and prevents more than 3.5 million cases of chickenpox, 9,000 hospitalizations, and 100 deaths each year in the United States, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.
Chickenpox has a telltale rash that occurs about 14 days after exposure. Made up of hundreds of red, fluid-filled blisters, the chickenpox rash first shows up on the face, scalp, and torso, then spreads to the arms and legs.
Yes, shingles occurs when the varicella zoster virus that causes chickenpox reactivates in the body. After a person recovers from chickenpox, the virus stays dormant in the body and can reactivate later, causing shingles.
Chickenpox is a contagious childhood illness caused by the varicella zoster virus, a virus in the herpes family. A human-only virus, varicella is spread through close contact with an infected individual. Chickenpox is largely preventable through a vaccine.
Chickenpox is caused by the varicella zoster virus, which spreads easily from person to person. It is transmitted mainly through close contact with someone who is infected. A person is contagious for one to two days before the telltale rash appears, and it takes between 10 to 21 days to develop symptoms. Once you have had chickenpox, you are unlikely to get it again.
Chickenpox is contagious for one to two days before the telltale rash appears until all of the chickenpox lesions have crusted or scabbed over. In people who are vaccinated but still develop a mild case of chickenpox, the lesions may not crust. In that case, a person is contagious until there are no new lesions for 24 hours.
Antihistamines are a class of medications used to treat allergy symptoms including runny nose, congestion, sneezing, and itching. Antihistamines are sometimes recommended to relieve the itch of chickenpox.
Calamine lotion is a lotion used to relieve itching, pain, and discomfort from minor skin irritations, such as poison ivy, mosquito bites, and chickenpox. Available without a prescription, calamine should be applied to the irritated skin using a cotton ball as often as needed.
A papule is a type of skin lesion with a solid or cystic raised spot on the skin that is smaller than 1 centimeter wide.
Varivax is the brand name of the varicella vaccine that protects against chickenpox. The vaccine is given in two doses that are spaced out by at least 28 days and up to several years in young children.
A vesicle is a small fluid-filled blister on the skin that breaks easily and releases fluid onto the skin. As it dries, it may leave a yellow crust behind. Vesicles can be as small as the tip of a pin, up to 5 millimeters (mm) wide.
A viral infection is an infection caused by a virus. Viruses are microscopic organisms that are transmitted from person to person. Some viruses, like the common cold, influenza, and COVID-19, can cause upper respiratory infection, while enteroviruses commonly cause vomiting and diarrhea. The varicella zoster virus that causes chickenpox is in the herpes family of viral infections.
American Academy of Family Physicians. Antihistamines: Understanding your OTC options. Updated July 21, 2019.
MedlinePlus. Papule. Updated November 3, 2020.
MedlinePlus. Varicella (chickenpox) vaccine. Updated October 27, 2020.
MedlinePlus. Vesicles. Updated November 3, 2020.
MedlinePlus. Viral infections. Updated October 19, 2020.
Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. About chickenpox. Updated December 31, 2018.
Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. Shingles (herpes zoster): Transmission. Updated July 1, 2019.
Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. Chickenpox vaccination: What everyone should know. Updated August 7, 2019.