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Topics > Chickenpox

Chickenpox

Chickenpox is a contagious disease that results in a rash. It is preventable by vaccination.

Symptoms

  • sudden onset of slight fever, fatigue, loss of appetite
  • rashes that start as red pimples then turn into itchy blisters; rashes begin in the trunk then spread to the face, hands and legs
  • lesions in the mucous membranes of the mouth

Symptoms appear 2–3 weeks after exposure to the virus.

Who can get chickenpox disease?

Persons who are not immune to chickenpox can get the disease. Some children who have been vaccinated against chickenpox can have breakthrough chickenpox, which is generally mild with fewer skin lesions (usually less than 50) and lasting only a few days, with only low fever or no fever at all.

What is the treatment for chickenpox?

Check with your health care provider for management of chickenpox symptoms. Anyone younger than 20 years old should not take aspirin or aspirin-containing products for fever because of the risk of Reye syndrome. Instead, use acetaminophen for fever. Clip your child's fingernails to prevent scratching. Call your health care provider if any of these symptoms are present: vomiting, sleepiness or lethargy, severe headache, stiff neck.

How is chickenpox spread?

Chickenpox is highly contagious. Chickenpox is spread person-to-person by direct contact, or by airborne contact with nose and/or throat secretions of an infected person. It can also be spread by indirect contact with articles soiled by discharges from the lesions of the infected person. An infected person can spread the disease 1–2 days before and usually for 5 days after the rash appears.

How is chickenpox prevented?

  • Children should get 1 dose of chickenpox vaccine between 12 and 18 months of age or before 13 years of age if they have not had chickenpox disease.
  • Children aged 13 years or older and adults should get 2 doses of chickenpox vaccine, 4-8 weeks apart. Check with your health care provider for details.
  • Exclude infected children from daycare, school, public places and exclude infected adults from work until all rash has crusted, usually 5 days after they appear.
  • Contacts to a case of chickenpox should consult with their health care provider about receiving chickenpox vaccine; pregnant women exposed to chickenpox or who have symptoms of chickenpox should inform their health care provider.

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