Chickenpox (Varicella) (cont.)
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The first symptoms of chickenpox include:
The first symptoms are usually mild in children, but they can be severe in teens and adults. These symptoms may continue throughout the illness.
About 1 or 2 days after the first symptoms of chickenpox appear, an itchy rash develops. During a typical course of chickenpox:
Chickenpox is most contagious from 2 to 3 days before the rash appears until all the blisters have crusted over.
Other conditions may cause a similar rash.
The first symptoms of chickenpox—fever, feeling sick, decreased appetite, headache, cough, and sore throat—usually develop between 14 and 16 days after contact with a person infected with the virus. But it may be as late as 21 days after contact before symptoms appear.
Chickenpox rash usually appears on the upper body about 1 or 2 days after the first symptoms develop. The trunk usually is most affected, 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, including drying and crusting over. New red spots continue to develop every day for as long as 5 to 7 days.
Skin infection is the most common complication for children under age 5. Skin infection can develop after scratching the rash, which allows bacteria from the skin or under the fingernails to get into a chickenpox blister. This condition can become serious if it is not treated. An infected blister also may develop into a scar.
Some people may have more chickenpox blisters and longer-lasting symptoms than healthy children. Severe illness or complications are more common in:
The varicella-zoster virus that causes chickenpox can appear in different forms. These variations of chickenpox are most often seen in young children and in the fetus of a pregnant woman.
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 20 out of 100 people who have chickenpox will later develop shingles.1
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