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Anyone who hasn’t had chickenpox or received the chickenpox vaccine can get the disease. Chickenpox most commonly causes an illness that lasts about 5-10 days.

The classic symptom of chickenpox is a rash that turns into itchy, fluid-filled blisters that eventually turn into scabs. The rash may first show up on the face, chest, and back then spread to the rest of the body, including inside the mouth, eyelids, or genital area. It usually takes about one week for all the blisters to become scabs.

Other typical symptoms that may begin to appear 1-2 days before rash include:

  • high fever

  • tiredness

  • loss of appetite

  • headache

Children usually miss 5 to 6 days of school or childcare due to their chickenpox.

NEVER give a child aspirin, or any aspirin containing product who has the chickenpox, or who might be exposed to chicken pox!

Vaccinated Persons:

Some people who have been vaccinated against chickenpox can still get the disease. However, the symptoms are usually milder with fewer blisters and mild or no fever. About 25% to 30% of vaccinated people who get chickenpox will develop illness as serious as chickenpox in unvaccinated persons.

People at Risk for Severe Chickenpox:

Some people who get chickenpox may have more severe symptoms and may be at higher risk for complications. Complications from chickenpox can occur, but they are not as common in otherwise healthy people who get the disease.

People who may have more severe symptoms and may be at high risk for complications include:

  • Infants

  • Adolescents

  • Adults

  • Pregnant women

  • People with weakened immune systems because of illness or medications; for example:

    • People with HIV/AIDS or cancer

    • Patients who have had transplants

    • People on chemotherapy, immunosuppressive medications, or long-term use of steroids.


People at High Risk for Complications:


  • Immunocompromised Persons

  • People with HIV or AIDS

  • Pregnant Women

Immunocompromised Persons

Immunocompromised persons who get varicella are at risk of developing visceral dissemination (VZV infection of internal organs) leading to pneumonia, hepatitis, encephalitis, and disseminated intravascular coagulopathy. They can have an atypical varicella rash with more lesions, and they can be sick longer than immunocompetent persons who get varicella. The lesions may continue to erupt for as long as 10 days, may appear on the palms and soles, and may be hemorrhagic.

People with HIV or AIDS

Children with HIV infection tend to have atypical rash with new crops of lesions presenting for weeks or months. HIV-infected children may develop chronic infection in which new lesions appear for more than one month. The lesions may initially be typical maculopapular vesicular lesions but can later develop into non-healing ulcers that become necrotic, crusted, and hyperkeratotic. This is more likely to occur in HIV-infected children with low CD4 counts.

Some studies have found that VZV dissemination to the visceral organs is less common in children with HIV than in other immunocompromised patients with VZV infection. The rate of complications may also be lower in HIV-infected children on antiretroviral therapy or HIV-infected persons with higher CD4 counts at the time of varicella infection. Retinitis can occur among HIV-infected children and adolescents.

Most adults, including those who are HIV-positive have already had varicella disease and are VZV seropositive. As a result, varicella is relatively uncommon among HIV-infected adults.

Pregnant Women

Pregnant women who get varicella are at risk for serious complications; they are at increased risk for developing pneumonia, and in some cases, may die as a result of varicella.

If a pregnant woman gets varicella in her 1st or early 2nd trimester, her baby has a small risk (0.4 – 2.0 percent) of being born with congenital varicella syndrome. The baby may have scarring on the skin, abnormalities in limbs, brain, and eyes, and low birth weight.

If a woman develops varicella rash from 5 days before to 2 days after delivery, the newborn will be at risk for neonatal varicella. In the absence of treatment, up to 30% of these newborns may develop severe neonatal varicella infection.

Some people should not get chickenpox vaccine or should wait:

  • People should not get chickenpox vaccine if they have ever had a life-threatening allergic reaction to a previous dose of chickenpox vaccine or to gelatin or the antibiotic neomycin.

  • People who are moderately or severely ill at the time the shot is scheduled should usually wait until they recover before getting chickenpox vaccine.

  • Pregnant women should wait to get chickenpox vaccine until after they have given birth. Women should not get pregnant for 1 month after getting chickenpox vaccine.

  • Some people should check with their doctor about whether they should get chickenpox vaccine, including anyone who:

    • Has HIV/AIDS or another disease that affects the immune system

    • Is being treated with drugs that affect the immune system, such as steroids, for 2 weeks or longer

    • Has any kind of cancer

    • Is getting cancer treatment with radiation or drugs

  • People who recently had a transfusion or were given other blood products should ask their doctor when they may get chickenpox vaccine.

Ask your health provider for more information.

Treatments at Home for People with Chickenpox

There are several things that can be done at home to help relieve the symptoms and prevent skin infections. Calamine lotion and colloidal oatmeal baths may help relieve some of the itching. Keeping fingernails trimmed short may help prevent skin infections caused by scratching blisters.

Use non-aspirin medications, such as acetaminophen, to relieve fever from chickenpox.

Do not use aspirin or aspirin-containing products to relieve fever from chickenpox. The use of aspirin in children with chickenpox has been associated with Reye’s Syndrome, a severe disease that affects the liver and brain and can cause death.

When to Call the Health Care Provider:

For people with chickenpox at risk of serious complications, call a health care provider if the person:

  • is older than 12 years of age

  • has a weakened immune system

  • is pregnant

  • develops any of the following:

    • fever that lasts longer than 4 days

    • fever that rises above 102°F (38.9°C)

    • any areas of the rash or any part of the body becomes very red, warm, or tender, or begins leaking pus (thick, discolored fluid), since these symptoms may indicate a bacterial infection

    • extreme illness

    • difficult waking up or confused demeanor

    • difficulty walking

    • stiff neck

    • frequent vomiting

    • difficulty breathing

    • severe cough

Treatments Prescribed by Your Doctor for People with Chickenpox:

Your health care provider can advise you on treatment options. Antiviral medications are recommended for people with chickenpox who are more likely to develop serious disease including:

  • otherwise healthy people older than 12 years of age

  • people with chronic skin or lung disease

  • people receiving steroid therapy

  • some groups of pregnant women

Other Sources: CDC Wikipedia Kids Health.Org |Download our ChickenPox Party Handout

Sharing body fluids from other children puts your child at great and deadly risk, not to mention this is a Federal Offense according to Homeland Security. The intentional spreading of any virus, or viral infection, and the mailing or transporting of such, falls under Bio-Terrorism Laws and the FBI and Homeland Security are going to want to talk to those involved. You have no idea what other conditions exist in that swab or sucker. Just don't do it! For the sake of your child's life, and the lives of other children, pregnant women, and Immunocompromised Persons, just don't do it! We have seen places on the Internet that offer chickenpox parties, and we know the FBI gets involved. Some people do this as a 'scam', charging unsuspecting and uneducated parents umore than $100.00 for a swab, or sucker, and parents have no idea what they are really getting. Is that swab or sucker HIV contaminated? Herpes contaminated? Some other disease contaminated? And you are going to risk giving it to your precious child?

Risks of Chicken Pox Parties:

  • A child will often get 300 to 500 blisters during the infection, but can have up to 1500; these crust over and fall off in one to two weeks.

  • Varicella can be severe and even fatal in otherwise healthy children (but less than 1 out of every 10,000 cases).

  • Chickenpox can cause pneumonia (23 out of every 10,000 cases).

  • Bacterial infections of the blisters (usually impetigo) occur commonly (up to 5% of cases).

  • Chickenpox is an important risk factor for severe invasive group A streptococcal disease, which can be fatal.

  • Other complications of varicella include decreased platelets, arthritis, hepatitis, and brain inflammation.

  • In immunocompromised persons of all ages, varicella may be fatal.

  • The virus which causes chickenpox remains in the body for life and may reappear as shingles, particularly in the elderly.

  • A woman who contracts chickenpox in early pregnancy can pass the virus to her fetus, causing abnormalities in 2% of cases.

Measles, mumps, rubella, and varicella are 4 common childhood diseases caused by measles virus, mumps virus, rubella virus, and varicella virus, respectively. These diseases may be associated with serious complications and, or, death. For example, measles can be associated with pneumonia and encephalitis; mumps can be associated with aseptic meningitis, deafness, and orchitis; rubella occurring during pregnancy can cause congenital rubella syndrome in the infants of infected mothers; and wild-type varicella can be associated with bacterial superinfection, pneumonia, encephalitis, and Reye's Syndrome.

Chickenpox is a very contagious disease caused by the varicella-zoster virus (VZV). It causes a blister-like rash, itching, tiredness, and fever. Chickenpox can be serious, especially in babies, adults, and people with weakened immune systems. It spreads easily from infected people to others who have never had chickenpox or received the chickenpox vaccine.

Chickenpox spreads in the air through coughing or sneezing. It can also be spread by touching or breathing in the virus particles that come from chickenpox blisters.

While staph infections of the skin are common in infants and young children, they usually are mild. However, chickenpox blisters can provide a place for staph bacteria to enter the skin, and a serious infection can develop quickly. It’s common for chickenpox blisters to be close together and when the staph infection penetrates the skin, the skin around the infected area simply dies and falls off.

Download our ChickenPox Party Handout

Most children with chickenpox completely recover. But it can be serious, even fatal, for babies, adolescents, and adults.

“Everyone said don’t worry—natural immunity is better”: A True Story

Zoe was 13 months old when her mom, Amy, first noticed the blister on her cheek. “I never imagined that within a few short days, my baby would be in the hospital fighting for her life.”

At first, Amy did not think the blister was anything to worry about. But by the next day, there were blisters on her trunk, scalp, and face. Amy took Zoe to the pediatrician who said that Zoe had chickenpox. For her age—13 months—Zoe was up to date on all her vaccinations, but had not yet received the chickenpox vaccine. Her doctor, who followed the recommended schedule for giving the chickenpox vaccine during
age 12 through 15 months, had set Zoe to get the vaccine at her 15-month check-up.

“We have no idea where Zoe was exposed to chickenpox,” Amy says. “It was summertime and we were everywhere, doing lots of activities where there were a lot of kids.”
At first, other than being a little itchy, Zoe seemed fine and was acting like her normal, happy self. “Everyone told me not to worry—she’d be fine. Some told me we were lucky that Zoe caught chickenpox, because they thought natural immunity is better than getting the vaccine,” Amy recalls. “So, I didn’t worry.”

Within a few days of noticing that first blister, Amy thought a few of the blisters looked infected. Worried, Amy called the pediatrician, who gave her instructions to continue treating Zoe at home with medicine to reduce her fever and relieve her itching. “Although she had a slight fever, Zoe was still pretty playful. I gave her some Tylenol and an oatmeal bath and put her to bed,” Amy says. “But the next morning, I had a hard time waking her up. More blisters were infected and huge chunks of her skin on her back and belly were literally falling off,” Amy recalls.


She took Zoe to the pediatrician, who immediately rushed her to the hospital. “Within 4 hours of getting Zoe out of bed and to the doctor, the area of affected skin had doubled. It was the scariest thing I had ever seen.”

“When we first arrived at the hospital, Zoe’s fever had reached 104 degrees and she barely had energy to move.” At the hospital, doctors determined that Zoe’s chickenpox blisters were infected with the Staphylococcus aureus (staph) bacteria. The hospital doctors immediately started her on antibiotics. It took 12 hours of antibiotics before Zoe began to get better. Plus, Zoe was so uncomfortable that she was given morphine to control her pain.

Zoe spent a week in isolation at the hospital. Doctors limited Zoe’s contact with the family to prevent the infection from spreading.
Thankfully the treatment during her hospital stay worked. Six days later, Zoe was able to go home—but she was bandaged from head to toe to protect her healing skin.

To ensure Zoe was not exposed to anything that could cause another infection, she had to stay home from child care until all of the chickenpox blisters healed. In total, Amy missed more than 2 weeks of work due to Zoe’s illness.
Fortunately, Zoe made a full recovery. But a year later, Zoe still has a few scars—on her face, back and above her knee—that serve as a constant reminder of her life-threatening experience with chickenpox.

“It never occurred to me just how serious chickenpox could be,” Amy says. “Zoe was very lucky, because she could have very easily died from her infection—but thank goodness we still have our precious girl. Other children are not so lucky. I encourage all parents to get their kids vaccinated for chickenpox.

The National Reye's Syndrome Foundation Does Not Condone Chicken Pox Parties! They can be Deadly!

Signs & Symptoms

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