Symptoms Of Chickenpox
Symptoms of chickenpox in adults and children typically appear as an itchy, blister rash that appears 10–21 days after exposure to the varicella zoster virus and the symptoms can last 5–10 days or longer. Other signs and symptoms of chickenpox include fever, loss of appetite, headache or migraine, lethargy, and malaise, or a general feeling of being unwell. Once it appears, the chickenpox rash goes through three distinct stages. First, raised, pink, or red-colored bumps develop on the skin over several days.
Second, small, fluid-filled blisters, or vesicles, form on the skin and then break open. Third, crusts and scabs form over the broken blisters, requiring multiple additional days to heal. You may experience all three stages simultaneously, as new bumps continue to appear and develop over several days. The disease is generally mild in healthy children. However, in severe cases, the rash can cover every portion of skin on the body, and lesions may form in the eyes, throat, and mucus membranes of the vagina, urethra, and anus.
How Do You Get Chickenpox?
Chickenpox is a highly contagious disease caused by the varicella-zoster virus. This virus can spread to others through direct contact with the rash. Chickenpox transmission may also occur if a person infected with the virus either coughs or sneezes and another person inhales the expelled air droplets. The virus spreads quickly from patients with chickenpox to others who have never had the disease or have never been vaccinated. A patient with chickenpox is considered contagious 1–2 days before the rash appears up until all the chickenpox lesions have crusted or scabbed over. Patients who are vaccinated and contract the virus may develop skin lesions that do not scab over; these patients may be considered contagious until no new lesions have appeared for 24 hours or more. For most patients who contract the virus, getting chickenpox provides them with immunity for life. It is possible, however, to get chickenpox more than once, though this is uncommon.
Chickenpox is normally a mild disease that causes discomfort for a relatively short time. But in some cases, the disease can be severe and lead to serious complications. Patients at a higher risk of developing chickenpox complications include newborns and infants whose mothers never had chickenpox or the vaccine; adolescents and adults; pregnant women who haven't had chickenpox; smokers; those with suppressed immune systems; and those taking steroid medications. The following includes potential complications of chickenpox.
- Bacterial Infections
- Toxic Shock Syndrome
- Bleeding Problems
Another potential complication of the disease, chickenpox and shingles are closely related. If you've ever had chickenpox, you can get shingles (herpes zoster). According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, about 1 in 3 people will develop shingles during their lifetime. Shingles are painful rashes that develop on one side of the body or face. The rash develops blisters that usually scab over in 7–10 days, fully healing within 2–4 weeks. Other symptoms of shingles may include fever, headache, chills, and upset stomach. The shingles vaccine is recommended for preventing shingles in adults age 50 and older.
If you believe you or your child might have chickenpox, then consult your medical professional. Doctors can typically diagnose the rash by examining it and considering other symptoms. Your doctor may also prescribe certain medications to help lessen the severity of the symptoms and treat any complications as necessary. You should let your doctor know right away if the rash spreads to one or both of your eyes; the rash becomes very red, warm, or tender; dizziness, disorientation, trouble breathing, tremors, loss of coordination, worsening cough, or vomiting; or if anyone in your household has a depleted immune system or is younger than six months old.
If you have chickenpox, there are several things you can do at home to help relieve your symptoms and to prevent skin infections, including the following.
- Use calamine lotion
- Take cool baths with baking soda, uncooked oatmeal, or colloidal oatmeal
- Keep fingernails trimmed short
- Minimize scratching to prevent skin infections and spreading
- Wash your hands thoroughly if you scratch a blister
- Do not use aspirin or aspirin-containing products
The most effective way to prevent chickenpox is by getting the chickenpox vaccine. Everyone, including children, adolescents, and adults, should get two separate doses of the chickenpox vaccine if they have never had chickenpox or were never previously vaccinated. Most patients who get the vaccine will not get chickenpox. If you do, your symptoms are usually milder with a reduced likelihood of complications. Contact us today to learn more about the best ways to prevent chickenpox and to schedule an appointment with our dermatologists.