Symptoms and Signs of Chickenpox

Medical Author:
Medically Reviewed on 8/27/2021

Doctor's Notes on Chickenpox

Chickenpox is a viral infection caused by the varicella-zoster virus (VZV). Before vaccination against chickenpox became routine, it was a very common disease of childhood. After a VZV infection, the virus becomes become dormant and can reactivate later to cause disease. With VZV, reactivation of the disease produces the condition in adults known as shingles or herpes zoster. Shingles outbreaks typically occur when there is a weakened immune system.

Signs and symptoms of chickenpox include fever and red spots on the skin that spots rapidly develop into blisters. The rash usually starts on the head or trunk and spreads to the arms and legs. The blisters may spread to mucous membranes and produce ulcers inside the eyelids, mouth, throat, and genital area. Another associated symptom is intense itching of the rash.

What Are the Treatments for Chickenpox?

Treatments of chickenpox usually center on reducing or stopping symptoms:

  • Itchiness reduction: Apply cool wet compresses or take baths in lukewarm water several times a day.
  • Calamine lotion: Apply to itchy areas and avoid the face.
  • Pain control: Do not use aspirin in children less than 18 years of age.
  • Take antihistamines.
  • Antivirals: acyclovir and others for high-risk patients
  • Get the vaccine within 3-5 days after exposure to the virus.
  • Patients with severe infections usually need hospitalization.

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Kasper, D.L., et al., eds. Harrison's Principles of Internal Medicine, 19th Ed. United States: McGraw-Hill Education, 2015.