Chickenpox (Varicella) (cont.)
David Perlstein, MD, MBA, FAAP
Dr. Perlstein received his Medical Degree from the University of Cincinnati and then completed his internship and residency in pediatrics at The New York Hospital, Cornell medical Center in New York City. After serving an additional year as Chief Pediatric Resident, he worked as a private practitioner and then was appointed Director of Ambulatory Pediatrics at St. Barnabas Hospital in the Bronx.
William C. Shiel Jr., MD, FACP, FACR
Dr. Shiel received a Bachelor of Science degree with honors from the University of Notre Dame. There he was involved in research in radiation biology and received the Huisking Scholarship. After graduating from St. Louis University School of Medicine, he completed his Internal Medicine residency and Rheumatology fellowship at the University of California, Irvine. He is board-certified in Internal Medicine and Rheumatology.
In this Article
- Chickenpox facts
- What is chickenpox? What causes chickenpox?
- How does chickenpox spread?
- What are chickenpox symptoms and signs?
- What are treatment options for chickenpox?
- What are the possible complications of chickenpox?
- Can chickenpox be prevented with a vaccine?
- Take the Chickenpox Quiz!
- Childhood Skin Problems Slideshow
- View Images of Chickenpox (Varicella)
- Chickenpox FAQs
How does chickenpox spread?
Chickenpox is very highly contagious. It is easily passed between members of families and school classmates through airborne particles, droplets in exhaled air, and fluid from the blisters or sores. It also can be transmitted indirectly by contact with articles of clothing and other items exposed to fresh drainage from open sores. Patients are contagious up to five days (more commonly, one to two days) before and five days after the date that their rash appears. When all of the sores have crusted over, the person is usually no longer contagious.
What are chickenpox symptoms and signs?
Symptoms tend to appear 14 to 16 days after the initial exposure but can occur anytime from 10 days up to 21 days after contact with the virus. Chickenpox is characterized by one to two days of mild fever up to 102 F, general weakness, and a rash, often the first sign of the disease. Rarely, a person may have the disease without the rash. The rash of chickenpox develops in crops with raised red spots arriving first, progressing to blisters that burst, forming open sores, before crusting over. This process usually starts on the scalp, then the trunk (its area of greatest concentration), and finally the arms and legs. Any area of skin that is irritated (by diaper rash, poison ivy, eczema, sunburn, etc.) is likely to be hard hit by the rash. The rash is typically very itchy (pruritic).
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