Diseases & Conditions



Diseases & Conditions


What is chickenpox?

Chickenpox is a common childhood illness. It is usually mild and characterized by blister-like vesicles which break and scab over after a few days. It consists of an itchy, red rash that breaks out on the face, scalp, chest, back and, to a lesser extent, arms and legs.1

Chickenpox can be severe in adults, with pneumonia, meningitis or encephalomyelitis. It can be life-threatening in immunocompromised patients.


What causes chickenpox?

Chickenpox is caused by the varicella-zoster virus which is a member of the herpes viruses that causes varicella (chickenpox) and zoster (shingles).

Chickenpox is highly contagious and is transmitted by direct contact or through the air from an infected person’s coughing or sneezing. A patient with chickenpox is contagious for 1 –2 days before the rash appears and until all the blisters have formed scabs.2


What are the risk factors for chickenpox?

Some factors could increase the risk of getting chickenpox:3

  • Living with someone infected with chickenpox
  • Staying indoors for more than 1 hour with a patient infected with chickenpox
  • Sharing a room or taking care of someone who has chickenpox
  • Having a weak immune system


What are the symptoms of chickenpox?

The signs and symptoms of chickenpox include:4

  • Uncomfortable and itchy rash that will turn into fluid-filled blisters and eventually into scabs.
  • Fever
  • Headache
  • Tiredness
  • Loss of appetite


How is chickenpox diagnosed?

Tests to diagnose chickenpox are the following:5

  • Checking the symptoms: The symptoms of chickenpox are usually distinctive enough to distinguish from other rashes.
  • Blood test: A simple blood test checking for the varicella-zoster virus can be carried out to identify the virus.


How is chickenpox treated?

There is no cure for chickenpox, and the virus usually clears up by itself without any treatment. However, there are some medications that can ease the discomfort and the itching such as:6

  • Painkillers: Painkillers are usually given to relieve from the pain and to decrease the fever.
  • Keeping hydrated: It is very important to drink plenty of water to avoid dehydration


How is chickenpox prevented?

The best way to prevent chickenpox is to get the chickenpox vaccine. Children, adolescents, and adults should have two doses of chickenpox vaccine.7



  1. Mayo Clinic http://www.mayoclinic.org/diseases-conditions/chickenpox/multimedia/chickenpox/img-20007140 (Accessed February 29, 2016)
  2. Clinical features of varicella-zoster virus infection: Chickenpox http://www.uptodate.com/contents/clinical-features-of-varicella-zoster-virus-infection-chickenpox (Accessed February 29, 2016)
  3. WebMD http://www.webmd.com/vaccines/tc/chickenpox-varicella-what-increases-your-risk (Accessed February 29, 2016)
  4. S National Library of Medicine https://www.nlm.nih.gov/medlineplus/chickenpox.html (Accessed February 29, 2016)
  5. Chickenpox http://www.nhs.uk/Conditions/Chickenpox/Pages/Diagnosis.aspx (Accessed February 29, 2016)
  6. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention http://www.cdc.gov/chickenpox/about/prevention-treatment.html (Accessed February 29, 2016)