July 29, 2016

Answers FAQ

Chickenpox FAQs

Reviewed by Charles P. Davis, MD, PhD

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Q:Chickenpox is contagious. True or False?

A:True. Chickenpox is a highly contagious childhood infection caused by a virus.

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Q:Chickenpox got its name from a similar skin condition seen in young chickens. True or False?

A:False. Chickenpox as an illness is not related to chickens. As chickenpox is weak, or far less deadly when compared to the more aggressive smallpox, the term "chicken" as used in "chickenpox" refers to "chickenhearted," meaning weak, timid, or bashful. The disease has been termed "chickenpox" since about the 16th century.

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Q:The varicella zoster virus that causes chickenpox is a herpes virus. True or False?

A:True. The varicella zoster virus (VZV) that causes chickenpox is a herpes virus. After a child recovers from chickenpox, the varicella virus lies dormant in the body. The varicella zoster virus that causes chickenpox in children is also responsible for the painful, itchy condition called shingles in adults.

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Q:The chickenpox virus spreads through the air. True or False?

A:True. Chickenpox may be transmitted in two ways: In the air, through particles propelled by a sneeze or a cough, or by direct skin-to-skin contact.

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Q:Is there a chickenpox vaccine?

A:Yes. There was a time when nearly every child developed chickenpox as part of childhood, but the number of chickenpox infections has diminished significantly due to the development of a vaccine.

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Q:Chickenpox can still develop despite vaccination. True or False?

A:True. About 20% of vaccinated people still develop chickenpox, but the infection is usually mild. When vaccinated people develop chickenpox, their rashes tend to resemble bug bites or bumps rather than the red blisters that are symptomatic of a classic chickenpox infection.

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Q:Once exposed to the infection, a person can develop chickenpox in as little as how many days?

A:10. It generally takes about 10-21 days for a person to develop chickenpox after being exposed.

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Q:In addition to the rash, another symptom of chickenpox includes fever. True or False?

A:True. Symptoms of chicken pox include the following: fever, headache, sore throat, general weakness , and/or itchy, red, blistering rash that crusts over and scabs.

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Q:Chickenpox takes about a month to run its course. True or False?

A:False. While it generally takes about 10-21 days for a person to develop chickenpox after being exposed, chickenpox generally takes about 10 additional days to run its course. The chickenpox rash will usually appear a day or two after the first symptoms start. Once the rash appears, each spot takes about a day or two to go through its stages, including blistering, bursting, drying out, crusting over, and scabbing. New chickenpox blisters appear, and this cycle is repeated for about five to seven days. A person is no longer contagious once the blisters have all crusted over.

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Q:Children with chickenpox should be seen by a doctor. True or False?

A:False. For healthy children, it is not always necessary to see a doctor. If a child appears to be developing chickenpox, parents may wish to call the doctor to determine if the doctor wants to see the child. Most healthy kids require only home treatment to manage their symptoms, including rest, fever-reducing medicines, and anti-itch medications and oatmeal bath soaks.

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