What is chickenpox?
— Chickenpox is an infection that causes an itchy rash to form on your skin. It is caused by a virus called varicella-zoster virus. This virus can linger in your body for years and later cause a painful rash called "shingles."
Chickenpox used to be much more common than it is now. Today there is a vaccine that helps keep people from getting infected. The vaccine is called the varicella vaccine.
What are the symptoms of chickenpox? — When you first get chickenpox, you usually:
●Get a fever
●Get a sore throat
●Do not feel like eating
About a day after these symptoms start, the chickenpox rash shows up. It starts out as groups of small, usually itchy, red bumps. These bumps usually swell with fluid and then pop. After that, the rash dries up and forms a scab. New bumps can show up on different parts of your body over several days. The rash lasts about a week.
How does chickenpox spread?
— If you have not had chickenpox or the varicella vaccine, you can catch chickenpox just by being around someone who is infected.
Should I call the doctor or nurse if I think my child or I have chickenpox?
— Yes. If you think you or your child might have chickenpox, you should call your doctor or nurse.
Will my child or I need treatment for chickenpox?
— You might need treatment, but your child might not. Most healthy young children get over chickenpox on their own without any problems. On the other hand, older children who have not had the vaccine and adults with chickenpox can sometimes have problems. For them, doctors and nurses often recommend a medicine. It helps people feel better faster.
Can chickenpox be prevented?
— Yes. The varicella vaccine prevents infection.
Almost all children should get a shot of the varicella vaccine when they are 12 to 15 months old. Then they should get a second shot when they are 4 to 6 years old. Everyone needs 2 separate shots for the vaccine to work best. Rarely, people who get the vaccine might still get mild chickenpox.
Most adults who have never had chickenpox should also get the vaccine, especially if they:
●Work in health care or with small children
●Are in close contact with people who have trouble fighting infections, such as people with cancer or HIV
●Live or work in a college, prison, or other place where a lot of people live close together
●Could get pregnant in the future (for women)
The most common side effect of the vaccine is pain where the shot was given.
Doctors do not recommend the varicella vaccine for some people. This includes:
●Certain people who have trouble fighting infections
●Women who are pregnant or plan to become pregnant soon
●Children and adults who have already had chickenpox
What should I do if I was near someone with chickenpox?
— If you have not had chickenpox or the varicella vaccine, call your doctor or nurse right away. It might still be possible to avoid getting sick! The varicella vaccine can work even if someone has already been near the virus. For people who cannot have the vaccine, there are other options that can help keep them from getting sick.