Chickenpox is a virus that spreads easily to others. It results in an itchy rash.
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A virus called varicella-zoster virus (VZV) causes this illness. It spreads through:
A pregnant mother can also pass it to her fetus.
The main risk factor is contact with someone with chickenpox. It is most common in children under 10 years of age. It is also more common in winter and spring.
Factors that may raise the chance of problems are:
Symptoms start about 10 to 21 days after contact. They are worse in adults than they are in children.
You may start by having:
The rash appears within 1 to 2 days after the first symptoms. The rash:
The doctor will ask about your symptoms and health history. A physical exam will be done. The doctor can often diagnose based on the rash.
Chickenpox is mild in most people. It will pass on its own. In most, it will last for 1 to 3 weeks. Home care can help ease discomfort.
Some may have serious problems from it.
The rash can be very itchy. But scratching can harm the skin. It can also raise risk for infection. Itchiness can be reduced with:
Note: Do not use aspirin in children with a current or recent viral infection. Check with your doctor before giving your child aspirin.
Some people have a higher risk of complications including:
Medicine may help shorten the infection. It may also reduce how severe the symptoms are. Medicines are:
Avoid being around anyone who has chickenpox.
There is a chickenpox vaccine. This can prevent illness even if you have been around someone who is sick. Vaccines may be given:
Centers for Disease Control and Prevention
Family Doctor—American Academy of Family Physicians
About Kids Health—The Hospital for Sick Children
College of Family Physicians of Canada
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Last reviewed June 2018 by James P. Cornell, MD Last Updated: 7/16/2018