Chickenpox is a viral infection. It is highly contagious. It creates a widespread itchy rash. In some, the infection can also cause serious complications. The infection is more dangerous for adults and newborns. It is also a danger for people with suppressed immune systems.
Chickenpox is caused by the varicella zoster virus (VZV). It spreads from person to person via:
Airborne droplets of moisture containing the VZV virus
Direct contact with fluid from a chickenpox rash
It is contagious 1-2 days before the rash erupts. It remains so until all of the blisters have crusted five days later. It is most contagious just after the rash has broken out.
A pregnant mother can transmit virus to fetus.
Factors that increase your chance of getting chickenpox include:
Close contact with an infected person (unless you've been
or have already had chickenpox)
Age: less than three years old with peak incidence between 5-9 years old
Immune deficient state (eg,
, organ transplantation, high-dose steroid, HIV)
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:
Lack of appetite
General feeling of malaise
Some children complain of abdominal pain
The rash appears within 1-2 days after the first symptoms. The rash will:
At first consists of 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 develop into crops 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 six or seven and disappears within three weeks
The doctor will ask about your symptoms and medical history. A physical exam will be done. Diagnosis is usually made on the basis of age and the rash. Blood and lab tests to identify the virus are rarely needed.
In most people, chickenpox is mild. It will naturally run its course. In these cases,
focuses on relieving the symptoms.
is not recommended for children or teens with a current or
recent viral infection. This is because of the risk of
. Ask your doctor which other medicines are safe for your child.
Antibiotics can not cure infections caused by a virus. 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 such as:
10/14/2008 DynaMed's Systematic Literature Surveillance
: Macartney K, McIntryre P. Vaccines for post-exposure prophylaxis against varicella (chickenpox) in children and adults.
Cochrane Database Syst Rev.
Please be aware that this information is provided to supplement the care
provided by your physician. It is neither intended nor implied to be a
substitute for professional medical advice. CALL YOUR HEALTHCARE PROVIDER
IMMEDIATELY IF YOU THINK YOU MAY HAVE A MEDICAL EMERGENCY. Always seek the
advice of your physician or other qualified health provider prior to
starting any new treatment or with any questions you may have regarding a