Chickenpox is an infection caused by the varicella-zoster virus. Most cases are in children under age 15, but older children and adults can get it. It spreads very easily from one person to another.
The classic symptom of chickenpox is an uncomfortable, itchy rash. The rash turns into fluid-filled blisters and eventually into scabs. It usually shows up on the face, chest, and back and then spreads to the rest of the body. Other symptoms include
- Loss of appetite
Chickenpox is usually mild and lasts 5 to 10 days. Calamine lotions and oatmeal baths can help with itching. Acetaminophen can treat the fever. Do not use aspirin for chickenpox; that combination can cause Reye syndrome.
Chickenpox can sometimes cause serious problems. Adults, babies, teenagers, pregnant women, and those with weak immune systems tend to get sicker from it. They may need to take antiviral medicines.
Once you catch chickenpox, the virus usually stays in your body. You probably will not get chickenpox again, but the virus can cause shingles in adults. A chickenpox vaccine can help prevent most cases of chickenpox, or make it less severe if you do get it.
Centers for Disease Control and Prevention
Diagnosis and Tests
- Chickenpox and Shingles Tests (American Association for Clinical Chemistry)
Prevention and Risk Factors
- Chickenpox (Varicella): Transmission (Centers for Disease Control and Prevention) Available in Spanish
- Chickenpox Can Be Serious. Protect Yourself and Your Child. (Centers for Disease Control and Prevention) Available in Spanish
- Chickenpox Vaccine (American Academy of Family Physicians)
- Chickenpox Vaccine: What You Need to Know (Centers for Disease Control and Prevention) - PDF Available in Spanish
- MMRV (Measles, Mumps, Rubella, and Varicella) Vaccine: What You Need to Know (Centers for Disease Control and Prevention) - PDF Available in Spanish
- Who Needs Chickenpox Vaccine (Centers for Disease Control and Prevention)
- Possible Side Effects of Chickenpox Vaccine (Centers for Disease Control and Prevention)
- Postherpetic Neuralgia (Mayo Foundation for Medical Education and Research)
- Reye Syndrome (Nemours Foundation) Available in Spanish
- Travelers' Health: Varicella (Chickenpox) (Centers for Disease Control and Prevention)
- Chickenpox (Varicella) Photos (Centers for Disease Control and Prevention)
Videos and Tutorials
- One Family's Struggle with Chickenpox (Parents of Kids with Infectious Diseases)
- ClinicalTrials.gov: Chickenpox (National Institutes of Health)
Journal ArticlesReferences and abstracts from MEDLINE/PubMed (National Library of Medicine)
Find an Expert
- Facts about Chickenpox and Shingles for Adults (National Foundation for Infectious Diseases) - PDF