Chickenpox (Varicella)

  • Chickenpox is a relatively common childhood illness and is highly contagious. People who are not immune to the disease usually develop symptoms 10 days to 3 weeks after the exposure. Chickenpox is contagious for a few days before the rash appears and for 5-7 days after the spots appear.

    Symptoms of chickenpox usually start as a cold, cough, fever and abdominal pain. Within a few days a pimple-like red rash appears. The spots can occur anywhere on the body and evolve from clear blisters to crusted spots. The rash of chickenpox is very itchy.

    It is important that children not receive aspirin with viral illnesses like chickenpox, because aspirin use has been shown to cause a serious disease called Reye's syndrome in children. You should call your doctor if your child has a fever over 103 for more than 24 hours, persistent vomiting, severe headaches or a stiff neck, or any other worrisome symptoms beyond the mild fever and annoying itching normally associated with this disease. Children may return to school when all of the spots have scabbed over (usually 5-7 days).

    Fortunately, a chickenpox vaccine is available for children and adults who have not had chickenpox. This vaccine is required for school attendance and will lower the risk of becoming ill with chickenpox. Those who do get the chickenpox despite having received the vaccine usually have a milder form of the disease. Most children now receive two doses of the chickenpox vaccine. Talk to your doctor about the chickenpox vaccine if your child has not had the second dose of the vaccine.

    If you have any questions or concerns about your child's health, please call your school nurse.

    For more information about chickenpox, visit the CDC's website or the Virginia Department of Health's website.