This contagious viral infection is characterized by an itchy, blistering rash.

This contagious viral infection is characterized by an itchy, blistering rash.

Chickenpox is an infection caused by the varicella-zoster virus. It is characterized by itchy, fluid-filled blisters (pox) that crust over after bursting. Symptoms usually develop about ten to twenty-one days after exposure.

  • The chickenpox virus spreads easily, meaning it is very contagious. A person can spread the virus during a period beginning a day or two before they have symptoms, until all their blisters are dry and crusted over.
  • There is a vaccine to prevent chickenpox. The vaccine is very effective and is now recommended as part of routine childhood immunizations. Due to the use of the vaccine, chickenpox has become much less common.
  • Prevention is important because a person with chickenpox can be very uncomfortable. In addition, in some instances the virus can cause serious illness.
  • Children who have problems with their immune system must avoid contact with persons with chickenpox. This includes children who are being treated with chemotherapy
  • Children who have received the vaccine may transmit the infection to others. For a few days after receiving the vaccine, it is best not be around people who have not had chickenpox or who have certain immune problems.

Chickenpox typically causes vague symptoms a few days before the appearance of itchy, fluid-filled blisters (poxes) that burst and crust over. The classic rash usually starts on the face, chest or scalp. It then develops in clusters over the rest of the body. Pox can also be seen in the mouth, vagina or on the eyelids. It usually takes about a week for all the blisters to burst and crust over. Children with any blisters that have not crusted over should not attend school or be in public settings. This is because they can easily spread the infection to others who do not have immunity to chicken pox. Some other early symptoms include:

  • Fever
  • Headache
  • Stomach ache
  • Loss of appetite

Once the blisters form, here are some things you can try at home to relieve the itching:

  • Oatmeal baths in lukewarm water
  • Over-the-counter medications, such as oral antihistamines and topical lotions
  • Trimming fingernails to decrease the risk of infection from scratching

Do NOT give your child aspirin when they have the chickenpox. This can increase their risk of developing Reye's Syndrome, a potentially life threatening condition. Non-aspirin-containing fever and pain reducers, such as acetaminophen or ibuprofen, do not cause Reye syndrome. Therefore, they are safe to administer to children with chickenpox. (Acetaminophen should be given only in doses appropriate to a child's age and size.)

You should only visit your child's primary healthcare provider if you are not sure what he or she has or if their symptoms are severe. Otherwise, other children in the waiting area will be exposed. If you do visit your child's healthcare provider, notify the office in advance that you think your child has chickenpox. That way they can arrange to separate your child from other patients.

Contact your healthcare provider if your child is at high risk for complications or has symptoms that are getting worse. Be prepared to discuss their symptoms and how long they have had them.

  • Bring a copy of your child's medical history (past illnesses, surgeries, and hospitalizations).
  • Make a list of your child's medications (including over-the-counter).
  • Write down any questions, symptoms or concerns you want to talk about.
  • If your healthcare provider prescribes a medication, ask for a generic version. If your doctor thinks that a generic version is not right for your child, ask for a medication on the lowest available tier of your Prescription Drug List (PDL). Remember, do NOT give your child aspirin when they have the chickenpox. This can increase their risk of developing Reye's Syndrome, a potentially life threatening condition.

Here are some questions to ask your healthcare provider.

  • What are some of the complications of chickenpox? Is my child at high risk for complications?
  • What treatment, if any, are you recommending? What options are available?
  • If medication is recommended, how long will my child need to take it? What are the possible side effects?
  • How long will it take my child's symptoms to improve? When can they go back to school?
  • What are the follow-up plans and what symptoms should I report before my child's next appointment?


Also known as:

Varicella Vaccine
Vaccine Chickenpox
Vaccine Chicken Pox
Immunization Chickenpox
Immunization Chicken Pox
Chickenpox Vaccine
Chickenpox Shot
Chickenpox Immunization
Chicken Pox Vaccine
Chicken Pox Shot
Chicken Pox Immunization
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