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What is chickenpox?

Chickenpox is a common childhood illness that causes a rash of this itchy spots, these spots then turn into fluid filled blisters before forming scabs which eventually fall off. Some children may only bare a few spots, whilst others entire body can be covered. They commonly appear on the face, ears, scalp, chess, belly, limbs and under the arms. Children usually catch it during winter and spring.

Chickenpox is also medically known as varicella, it is caused by a virus called the varicella-zoster virus. It rapidly spreads through coughs and sneezes of someone who’s infected.

Chickenpox commonly affects children under 10 years of age, it’s so common in childhood because 90% of adults are immune to the condition because they’ve had it previously.

What to do

It’s vital to keep children away from nursery or school to prevent the infection spreading. Chickenpox is most infectious two days before the rash appears and until all the blisters have crusted over. (Typically 5 to 6 days after the rash appears).

Try to keep your child away from public areas to avoid contact with people who have not had it, or those who are at risk of serious problems, such as pregnant women, newborn babies and anybody with a weakened immune system.


Chickenpox is considered a mild illness in children, but they may feel miserable and irritable during this time. It’s likely they will experience a fever of the first few days of the illness and the spots can be incredibly itchy. There is no specific treatment that they are pharmacy remedies which can alleviate symptoms.

In the majority of cases the blisters crest up and fall off naturally within two weeks.

When to see a doctor

Chickenpox is generally a mild illness that gets better on its own, but some children can become seriously ill. Contact your GP right away if your child develops any of the following:

  • if the blisters become infected
  • if your child has a pain in their chest or has difficulty breathing
Child with doctor


Chickenpox and adults

Adults can get chickenpox too and tends to be more severe than in children, because adults are at a higher risk of developing complications. You should stay off work and not visit public places when you have the infection.

Who is at risk?

Some children and adults are at special risk of serious problems if they catch chickenpox, they include:

  • pregnant women
  • newborn babies
  • people with a weakened immune system

These people should seek medical advice immediately after they are exposed to the chickenpox virus, they may need a blood test to check if they are immune.

Chickenpox in pregnancy

Chickenpox occurs in approximately 3 in every 1000 pregnancies, it can lead to serious complications to both mother and baby.

Chickenpox and shingles

Once what you experience chickenpox you normally develop antibodies to the infection, make you immune to catch on it again. The virus which causes chickenpox remains dormant in your body and can return later in life as an illness called shingles.


There is a chickenpox vaccine but it is only offered to children and adults who are particularly vulnerable to chickenpox complications.



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