Child with chickenpox

What is Chickenpox in Children?

If you have been asking yourself what is chickenpox in children here’s what you need to know. This infection is the result of the varicella-zoster virus and is usually accompanied by an itchy rash and small fluid-filled blisters. The condition is highly infectious to those who have not had it before, or that have not been vaccinated against the virus. Nowadays,  you can protect your children from chickenpox with a vaccine. Periodic vaccination is recommended by the CDC and it is a safe and efficient way  to avoid getting very ill from chickenpox and its probable complications.

What Is Chickenpox In Children?

Chickenpox Symptoms

Usually after 10-21 days after being exposed, an itchy blister rash appears and lasts for around 5-10 days. Other symptoms and signs that might make an appearance after a day or two before the rash, include:

  • Headache
  • No appetite
  • Fever
  • Tiredness or feeling unwell overall

Three Phases of Chickenpox  Following Rash

  • Phase 1 – Raised red or pink papules (bumps) that break out over a few days.
  • Phase 2 – Small blisters filled with fluid that break and leak.
  • Phase 3 – Scabs and crust that form over the blisters which usually takes a few days to heal.

New papules will appear over the course of a few days, which means you could be having all three phases of the rash: bumps, blisters, and crusty lesions, all at the same time. The virus can be transmitted to others for up to forty-eight hours prior to the rash appearing, and the virus stays infectious until all the blisters have scabbed over.

Chickenpox is typically mild in children that are healthy. However, in more severe cases, the child’s whole body will be covered in a rash, and the lesions can form in the eyes, throat, and mucus membranes of the anus, urethra, and vagina.

When Is It Necessary To See A Doctor?

If you suspect your or your child might be infected, speak to your doctor. He can diagnose chickenpox by looking at the rash and considering accompanying symptoms. He can prescribe medication to offer relief and to treat any complications, when necessary. To prevent spreading the infection to others while waiting in the reception area, phone ahead and make an appointment. Be sure to mention that you suspect you or your child has chickenpox.

You should also tell your doctor when:

  • The rash is spreading to one or both the eyes.
  • The rash becomes warm, red, or tender. This could be an indication of a secondary bacterial skin infection.
  • You or your child also experience symptoms of disorientation, shortness of breath, dizziness, rapid heartbeat, vomiting, loss of muscle coordination, stiff neck, cough, or a fever that exceeds 38.9°C.

Chickenpox Causes

Chickenpox infection is a result of the varicella-zoster virus which spreads through being in contact with the rash. It can also spread when someone who has it, sneezes or coughs, and the droplets are inhaled by someone.

Risk Factors of Chickenpox

You might have a higher risk of getting chickenpox if you have not been vaccinated against the infection, or you have never had it before. It is particularly essential for those who work in school or childcare settings to be vaccinated.

Most individuals who had chickenpox before or have had a vaccination against chickenpox are immune. Some people might get it more than once, however this is not common. If you have been vaccinated against chickenpox, your symptoms might be milder, with mild to no fever, and a few blisters.

Chickenpox fever

Possible Complications of Chickenpox

Chickenpox is typically a mild infection, however, it can become severe and result in complications that include:

  • Bacterial infections of the soft tissues, bones, skin, joints, or bloodstream (sepsis)
  • Pneumonia
  • Toxic shock syndrome
  • Dehydration
  • Reye’s syndrome in kids and teens who took aspirin while having chickenpox
  • Death

Who Is At Risk of Getting Chickenpox?

Individuals who have a higher risk of getting chickenpox complications are:

  • Infants or newborns whose moms never had the vaccination or chickenpox before.
  • Adults and adolescents.
  • Smokers.
  • Pregnant women who have never had the disease before.
  • Those with weakened immune systems due to medication, for instance, chemotherapy, or from a disease, like HIV or cancer.
  • People that are on steroid meds for other conditions or diseases, like asthma.

Pregnancy And Chickenpox

Women who were infected with chickenpox commonly give birth to babies with limb abnormalities or low birth weight as a result of having the infection during early pregnancy. Once a pregnant mom gets infected with chickenpox during the week before giving birth or within two days or so, after giving birth, they have a higher risk of developing severe, life-threatening infection. If you are not immune and you are expecting a baby, speak to your GP as soon as possible about the risks to yourself and your unborn baby.

Shingles And Chickenpox

If you had chickenpox previously, you might be at risk of getting shingles. The varicella-zoster virus stays in your nerve cells after the skin infection cleared up. The virus can resurface or reactivate many years later as shingles, which is a cluster of painful temporary blisters. The virus is likely to reappear in people with weakened immune or older adults.

Even after the blisters go away, the pain associated with shingles can last for a long time. It is referred to as postherpetic neuralgia and can be serious.

Shingrix (shingles vaccine) is recommended for adults who had chickenpox before. Shingrix is recommended and approved for those age fifty and older, including individuals who have had the Zostavax shingles vaccine before. Zostavax is no longer available in the US.

Mom treating sick baby

Chickenpox Prevention

The best way to prevent contracting chickenpox is by getting the varicella vaccine. It can provide full protection against the virus for almost 98% of those who have received both recommended dosages. Even if it does not offer full protection, it could substantially lessen the severity of the disease.

Varivax Vaccination is Recommended For:

  • Young Kids.
  • Older children who were not vaccinated previously.
  • Adults who have not been vaccinated and have a high risk of being exposed.

The Chickenpox Vaccination is Not Recommended For:

  • Pregnant women.
  • People with gelatin or antibiotic neomycin allergies.
  • People with weakened immune systems, due to medication, immune deficiencies, or illness.


I hope you have found this post about what is chickenpox in children useful and that we have answered some of the questions that you may have had. Speak to your healthcare provider if you are not sure whether you need the vaccination or not. If you suspect you or your child are infected with chickenpox, speak to your doctor about your symptoms and treatment.

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  1. Thank you so much, some valuable info. Definitely asking my doctor about this at our next check up. Also going to check my kids Road to Health cards to see whether they have received the vaccine because gosh to be honest, I cannot remember.

    • If you have gone for all the vaccinations then you should be good Jill. My kids are up to date with all their vaccinations plus my daughter has already had chickenpox and measles so I can tick those off my list of nasties for her, but my son hasn’t had either yet so I’m sure that is still to come!

  2. Thank you for sharing this information.i always get confused in differentiating between chicken pox and small pox.
    This article is really helpful cz I get to know the signs and symptoms much earlier making me seek medical attention sooner to prevent the disease spreading to other kids
    I did have chicken pox when I was in primary level and that was many years ago and I wouldn’t know the symptoms if I had to encounter it today but I’m grateful for this post I get to know more than I did before

  3. Thank you for sharing. It is a terrible thing to get.

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