Chicken Pox


Chickenpox is a mild and common childhood illness that most children catch at some point.

It causes a rash of red, itchy spots that turn into fluid-filled blisters. They then crust over to form scabs, which eventually drop off.

Some children have only a few spots, but in others they can cover the entire body. The spots are most likely to appear on the face, ears and scalp, under the arms, on the chest and belly and on the arms and legs.

Read more about the symptoms of chickenpox and watch a slideshow of common childhood conditions to help you recognise if your child has it.

Chickenpox (medically known as varicella) is caused by a virus called the varicella-zoster virus. It's spread quickly and easily through the coughs and sneezes of someone who is infected.

Chickenpox is an acute contagious disease, common to children, particularly between the ages of 1 - 10 years. Though it has a superficial resemblance to smallpox, it is entirely a different disease and less severe.

But the good news is that chickenpox is a common illness for kids and most people get better by just resting like you do with a cold or the flu. And the really good news is that, thanks to the chickenpox vaccine, lots of kids don't get chickenpox at all. Kids who do get it, if they got the shot, often get less severe cases, which means they get better.



The disease starts with slight feverishness, and pain in the back and legs. There may be a feeling of chill, and with twenty-four hours of its onset, small red papules appear on the back and chest, and, sometimes, on the forehead too. 

  1. A rash that usually begins on the body and face and later often spreads to the scalp and limbs.

  2. It may also spread to the mucous membranes especially in the mouth and on the genitals.

  3. The rash is often itchy.

  4. It begins as small red spots which develop into blisters in a couple of hours.

  5. After one or two days, the blisters turn into scabs.

  6. New blisters may appear after three to six days.

  7. The number of blisters differs greatly from one person to another.

  8. The infected person may run a temperature.

  9. These symptoms are mild in young children.

  10. Chickenpox lasts 7 to 10 days in children and longer in adults.

  11. Adults can feel very ill and take longer to recover. They are also more likely than children to suffer complications.


Root Causes

Chickenpox is caused by a virus called varicella-zoster. It may start out seeming like a cold: You might have a runny or stuffy nose, sneezing, and a cough. But 1 to 2 days later, the rash begins, often in bunches of spots on the chest and face. From there it can spread out quickly over the entire body sometimes the rash is even in a person's ears and mouth. The number of pox is different for everyone. Some people get just a few bumps; others are covered from head to toe.


What to do

To prevent spreading the infection, keep children off nursery or school until all the spots have crusted over.

Chickenpox is most infectious from one to two days before the rash starts, until all the blisters have crusted over (usually five to six days after the start of the rash).

If your child has chickenpox, try to keep them away from public areas to avoid contact with people who have not had it, especially people who are at risk of serious problems, such as newborn babies, pregnant women and anyone with a weakened immune system (for example, people having cancer treatment or taking steroid tablets).


Chickenpox treatment

Chickenpox in children is considered a mild illness, but expect your child to feel pretty miserable and irritable while they have it.

Your child is likely to have a fever at least for the first few days of the illness. The spots can be incredibly itchy.

There is no specific treatment for chickenpox, but there are pharmacy remedies which can alleviate symptoms, such as paracetamol to relieve fever and calamine lotion and cooling gels to ease itching.

In most children, the blisters crust up and fall off naturally within one to two weeks.


Who's at special risk?

Some children and adults are at special risk of serious problems if they catch chickenpox. They include:

  1. pregnant women
  2. newborn babies
  3. people with a weakened immune system

These people should seek medical advice as soon as they are exposed to the chickenpox virus or they develop chickenpox symptoms.

They may need a blood test to check if they are immune (protected from) chickenpox.