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Chickenpox, also known as varicella, is a highly contagious viral infection that primarily affects children. It is characterized by a fever, fatigue, headache, loss of appetite, itchy rash with blisters, sore throat, and abdominal pain. While chickenpox is usually a mild illness, it can cause complications in certain individuals, such as pregnant women, newborns, and people with weakened immune systems. In this article, we will explore the symptoms, causes, treatment, and prevention of chickenpox.

Symptoms of Chickenpox

Chickenpox typically begins with a few days of mild flu-like symptoms, including fever, fatigue, headache, and loss of appetite. These symptoms are followed by the characteristic itchy rash, which starts as small red bumps and progresses into fluid-filled blisters. The rash usually appears on the face, chest, back, and then spreads to other parts of the body. Along with the rash, individuals may experience a sore throat and abdominal pain.

Causes of Chickenpox

Chickenpox is caused by the varicella-zoster virus (VZV), which is highly contagious and spreads from person to person through respiratory droplets or direct contact with the fluid from the blisters. The virus can also be transmitted by touching objects or surfaces contaminated with the virus. Once a person is infected, it takes about 10-21 days for the symptoms to appear.

Treatment for Chickenpox

Chickenpox is usually a self-limiting illness that resolves on its own within 1-2 weeks. However, there are several measures that can be taken to alleviate the symptoms and promote healing:

  • Keep the affected individual comfortable by providing plenty of fluids and rest.
  • Use over-the-counter medications, such as acetaminophen or ibuprofen, to reduce fever and relieve pain.
  • Apply calamine lotion or use cool compresses to soothe the itching.
  • Trim fingernails short to prevent scratching and minimize the risk of secondary bacterial infections.
  • Take lukewarm baths with colloidal oatmeal or baking soda to relieve itching.

It is important to note that aspirin should never be given to children or teenagers with chickenpox, as it can lead to a rare but serious condition called Reye’s syndrome.

Prevention of Chickenpox

The best way to prevent chickenpox is through vaccination. The varicella vaccine is highly effective and is routinely recommended for children at the age of 12-15 months, with a booster dose at 4-6 years. Vaccination not only protects individuals from developing chickenpox but also reduces the risk of complications and helps control the spread of the virus in the community.

In addition to vaccination, practicing good hygiene can also help prevent the spread of chickenpox:

  • Wash hands frequently with soap and water, especially after coming into contact with an infected individual or their belongings.
  • Avoid close contact with individuals who have chickenpox or shingles.
  • Cover the mouth and nose with a tissue or elbow when coughing or sneezing.
  • Disinfect surfaces and objects that may be contaminated with the virus.


Chickenpox is a common childhood illness that is usually mild but can cause discomfort and complications in certain individuals. Recognizing the symptoms and taking appropriate measures to alleviate them is crucial in managing the illness. Vaccination is the best way to prevent chickenpox and its complications, and practicing good hygiene can help reduce the spread of the virus. By following these guidelines, we can protect ourselves and others from the impact of chickenpox.

Haroon Rashid, MD
Rate author
Urgent Care Center of Arlington, VA
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