Paediatrics

Chickenpox

Introduction to Chickenpox

Chickenpox is a common condition that most people develop during childhood. It is caused by the varicella-zoster virus, resulting in a characteristic red itchy rash.

Written by Doctify Team 27/04/2020

What is Chickenpox?

Chickenpox is a common condition that most people develop during childhood. It is caused by the varicella-zoster virus, resulting in a characteristic red itchy rash. Chickenpox is contagious, spread by skin to skin contact. Public Health England recommends that if you develop chickenpox, you should inform your school and stay at home until you are no longer contagious; that is, after the last blister has crusted over. Chickenpox is not usually serious, lasting around 6 days after the rash begins. However, it can be serious in newborn babies, pregnant mothers, and those with weakened immune systems. Once you have the condition, you will probably be immune from developing it again in the future. However, the virus that causes chickenpox will lay inactive within your body and may become active again in the future, resulting in a different condition, known as shingles. If you think your child is experiencing symptoms of chickenpox, please see a paediatrician or GP.

What causes Chickenpox?

Chicken pox is caused by infection with the varicella-zoster virus. The virus is highly contagious and is spread by contact with someone infected with it. Transfer of the virus usually comes from broken blisters, or coughing and sneezing.

What are the symptoms of Chickenpox?

Chickenpox is characterised by a red blistering rash that can cover the entire body. The most common location for these spots are the face, behind the ears, on the scalp, on the chest, and on the arms and legs. These spots are extremely itchy and crust over after around 2 days.
Before the rash appears, other mild symptoms may be experienced including a temperature, aching muscles, feeling generally unwell, and loss of appetite.

How is Chickenpox treated?

Chickenpox usually clears without any treatment. If your child is experiencing pain or fevers, mild painkillers such as paracetamol can be taken. If the person affected is a newborn, or pregnant, or if they have a weakened immune system, they may require other treatments such as antivirals or immunoglobulin treatment. Importantly, if you are experiencing chickenpox, you should not take aspirin as you can develop a severe condition known as Reye’s syndrome.

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