Childhood Diseases Common Illnesses Chicken Pox

Chicken pox is a contagious virus, usually seen in kids ages 12 and under. It’s caused by the varicella zoster virus and is spread by direct contact or by coughing and sneezing. There is a chicken pox vaccine that helps tremendously in the spread of the disease. Keep reading to learn more about this common childhood disease.

Chicken Pox Symptoms

Chicken pox symptoms include a red, itchy rash all over the body, along with a fever. The chicken pox rash usually starts on the back or abdomen, along with the face, and then spreads to other parts of the body. It begins as small red bumps that turn into variably-sized blisters filled with clear fluid. This fluid soon becomes cloudy and the blisters break. The open sores that are left will crust over, becoming brown, dry scabs.

Some common symptoms that may accompany the rash are:

  • Abdominal pain
  • Fever
  • Headache
  • Sore Throat.

Chickenpox - Varicella Zoster Virus

These usually occur a day or two before the rash appears. You can expect these symptoms to last a few days, with the fever being between 100 and 102 degrees. Chicken pox is normally not severe, but some people can develop bacterial infections, swelling of the brain or other complications. Always check with your doctor if you’re concerned about any unusual symptoms.

Symptoms of chicken pox are usually worse in teens, adults and those with compromised immune systems. People who get chicken pox can suffer from a disease later in life called shingles. The varicella zoster virus can remain inactivated in the body and reactivate at a later time, causing shingles. Symptoms of shingles include itching and pain accompanied by a red, bumpy rash.

Chicken Pox Vaccine

The chicken pox vaccine was developed for use in the United States in 1995. According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, the vaccine prevents chicken pox in 70 to 90 percent of those who receive it. Children usually receive two doses: one at 12 to 15 months, and the second at 4 to 6 years. If your child has already had chicken pox, the vaccine isn’t necessary.

Chicken Pox Treatment Options

Chicken pox is highly contagious and it spreads quickly in families. Kids are contagious from about two days before the appearance of the rash until the time the scabs completely crust over. Chicken pox is caused by a virus, so antibiotics won’t be prescribed. Some ways to relieve your child’s discomfort include:

  • Bathing him in in cool or lukewarm water for the itch
  • Bathing him with oatmeal bath products
  • Giving acetaminophen for pain if necessary
  • Offering cold, soft foods to kids with sores in the mouth area
  • Requesting topical cream for sores in the genital area
  • Using calamine lotion on the itchy areas, except the face
  • Using cool, damp compresses for the itch.

Never give your child aspirin if she has the chicken pox, as this has been linked to Reye’s Syndrome, which can cause liver failure and even have fatal complications.

Encourage your child not to scratch the sores. Chicken pox will take some time to run its course. Be sure to call your doctor if you are concerned about any symptoms or you have questions.


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Mayo Clinic Staff. (n.d.). Chickenpox definition. Retrieved December 16, 2009, from the Mayo Clinic Web site:

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