Posted August 20, 2022 by Anusha ‐ 3 min read

Chickenpox is a very contagious infection caused by the varicella-zoster virus. It mainly affects kids, but adults can get it, too. The telltale sign of chickenpox is a super-itchy skin rash with red blisters.

How it transmits?

  • Very easily. You can get the virus by breathing in particles that come from chickenpox blisters or by touching something on which the particles landed.

  • Chickenpox is most contagious from 1 to 2 days before the rash appears until all the blisters are dried and crusted.

  • The best way to prevent the spread of the virus is to get the varicella vaccine.

  • Children who’ve never had chickenpox should get two doses of the vaccine the first at 12 to 15 months of age, and the second between ages 4 and 6.

  • People over age 13 who’ve never been vaccinated should get two doses of the vaccine at least 28 days apart.


  • Adults have a higher risk for developing complications from chickenpox than children.

  • Those with weakened immune systems due to cancer, HIV, or another condition are also at risk.

  • Once you’ve had chickenpox, the varicella-zoster virus stays in your nerve cells for years.

  • It can wake up and become active again years later. It can lead to shingles, a condition that causes painful blisters.

  • Fortunately, there’s a vaccine for shingles. Doctors recommend it for adults over 60.


Symptoms of chickenpox typically appear within 10 to 21 days after you’ve been exposed to the virus. The first sign is usually a general feeling of being unwell.

That’s normally followed by these symptoms:

  • Body aches

  • Fever

  • Feeling extremely tired (fatigue)

  • Feeling irritable

  • Loss of appetite

  • Headache

Most cases of chickenpox are mild and go away on their own. But see your doctor right away if you develop any of the following symptoms:

  • The rash spreads to one or both eyes

  • The rash gets very red, warm, or tender. You could have a bacterial skin infection.

  • Dizziness

  • Shortness of breath

  • Vomiting

  • Stiff neck

  • You can’t control your muscles

  • Fever over 102 F

  • Dehydration


Use Acetaminophen (Tylenol) for Pain and Fever

  • If you or your child has a high fever or achiness caused by chickenpox, reach for the Tylenol.

  • It can even help relieve pain associated with sores that develop on your skin or in your mouth.

  • It’s safe for most people, including pregnant women and children over 2 months old.

  • Avoid anti-inflammatory painkillers, like ibuprofen. If you have chickenpox, it can make you very ill.

  • Never give aspirin to children under age 16. It can lead to a serious complication called Reye’s syndrome.

Don’t Scratch That Itch

Yes, it’s tempting. But scratching your rash can put you at risk for a bacterial skin infection. It could also cause scarring. Try these tips to calm your itchy skin:

  • Tap or pat don’t scratch your itch

  • Take a cool oatmeal bath (you can buy it at your local drugstore). Dab or pat (don’t rub) your skin dry.

  • Wear loose, cotton clothing so your skin can breathe

  • Dab calamine lotion on your itchy spots

  • Try an antihistamine, like Benadryl, to ease your symptoms

  • Keep Your Cool

  • Heat and sweat make you itch more. Use a cool, wet washcloth on super-itchy areas to calm your skin.

Stay Hydrated

  • Drink lots of fluids to help your body rid itself of the virus faster. It’ll also keep you from getting dehydrated.

  • Choose water over sugary drinks or sodas, especially if you or your child has chickenpox in the mouth. Sugar-free popsicles are a good choice, too.

  • Avoid hard, spicy, or salty foods that can make your mouth sore.

Prescription Medications

If you’ve been exposed to someone who has chickenpox but doesn’t have symptoms yet, your doctor may give you an injection of a treatment called immunoglobulin. It can help prevent severe chickenpox.

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