Chickenpox (Varicella) (cont.)
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The first weeks after catching the virus
About 14 to 16 days after contact with a person infected with the virus, the first symptoms of chickenpox usually develop. Most people feel sick and have a fever, a decreased appetite, a headache, a cough, and a sore throat.
Chickenpox is most contagious from 2 to 3 days before the rash appears until all the blisters have crusted over.
The chickenpox rash
The chickenpox rash usually appears on the upper body about 1 or 2 days after the first symptoms start. The trunk usually is most affected, and the arms and legs the least. The rash also may spread to the scalp, face, nose, and mouth. In rare cases, it spreads into the eyelid lining (conjunctiva), into the clear covering over the eye (cornea), inside the throat, or into the genital area.
It takes about 1 or 2 days for a chickenpox red spot (macule) to go through all its stages:
Skin infection is the most common complication for children under age 5. Skin infection can form after the rash is scratched. Scratching allows bacteria from the skin or under the fingernails to get into a chickenpox blister. The infection can become serious if it isn't treated. An infected blister also may leave a scar.
Some people also are at increased risk of more serious problems from chickenpox. This higher-risk group includes newborns, teenagers, adults—especially pregnant women—and those who have weak immune systems.
Although you become immune to the chickenpox virus after you have had chickenpox, the virus will still be in your body. The virus can later cause shingles (herpes zoster), usually when you are an older adult. About 1 in 5 people who have chickenpox will later get shingles.1 The shingles vaccine can help prevent shingles or make shingles less painful.
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