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Chickenpox: Causes, Stages, Symptoms, Risk Factors, Diagnosis, Treatment and Complications

Mar 14, 2024

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Chickenpox Causes

Chickenpox Stages

Chickenpox Symptoms

Chickenpox Risk Factors

Chickenpox and pregnancy 

Chickenpox and Shingles

Chickenpox Diagnosis

Chickenpox Treatment

Chickenpox Complications


The varicella virus causes a condition known as varicella-zoster or chickenpox. It results in an itchy rash and small, fluid-filled blisters. Chickenpox can spread quickly among those who have never experienced the disease or who have not received the immunization. Vaccinations have protected children against chickenpox, which was formerly a highly common infection.

Getting vaccinated against chickenpox is a safe way to prevent the disease and the health problems it can cause.

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Chickenpox Causes

The virus known as varicella-zoster causes chickenpox. The rash can spread via direct contact. It can also spread when you breathe in airborne particles from a sick person's cough or sneeze.

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Chickenpox Stages

The emergence of the rash is generally related to the three stages of chickenpox:

  • Stage 1 is an itchy, red rash. This might continue for several days.
  • Stage 2 is a blistering rash that is fluid-filled. Within a day or two, the blisters ruptured.
  • Stage 3 is when the blisters scab over. This phase also lasts for a few days. It is possible to have many types of pimples at the same time, even if the rash goes through three stages. This suggests that although some lumps could still be forming, others might have already split open. The whole rash might last for 10 days or longer.

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Chickenpox Symptoms

You get the chickenpox rash ten to twenty-one days after being exposed to the varicella-zoster virus. The rash often lasts between five and 10 days. Some symptoms that may appear one or two days before the rash are as follows:

  • Elevated body temperature
  • Decreased appetite
  • Soreness
  • Exhaustion
  • A general feeling of unwellness.

After it appears, the chickenpox rash goes through three stages:

  • Pulmonary nodules are raised nodules that develop over several days.
  • Vesicles are little blisters packed with liquid that form in a day or two and then burst and spill.
  • Crusts and scabs cover the injured blisters, and they need several more days to heal. 

New lumps keep showing up for a few days. You may therefore have pimples, blisters, and scabs all at the same time. You can spread the infection to other people up to 48 hours before the rash appears. Furthermore, the illness is still contagious until all burst blisters have healed.

When a child is healthy, the condition is usually modest. On rare occasions, though, the rash could extend to the whole body. Blisters may form in the neck and eyes. The tissue lining the urethra, anus, and vagina can also produce them.

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Chickenpox Risk Factors

Your risk of catching the illness-causing virus is higher if you have never had chickenpox or had an immunization. Those who work in schools or childcare facilities in particular should be immunized.

Most people who have had chickenpox or gotten the immunization are immune to the infection. The symptoms of chickenpox are often less severe even after immunization. It is possible to have fewer blisters and a mild or nonexistent fever.

Some people are more susceptible to chickenpox than once, but this is rare.

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Chickenpox and pregnancy 

Pregnant women who have chickenpox early in their pregnancy are more likely to have low birth weight babies and babies with deformed limbs. When a pregnant woman has chickenpox in the week before giving birth or in the initial postpartum period, her unborn child may suffer from a possibly deadly condition.

Talk to your doctor about these worries if you are pregnant and susceptible to chickenpox.

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Chickenpox and Shingles

If you have ever had chickenpox, you can get shingles as a result. Even after the chickenpox rash goes away, the varicella-zoster virus is still present in your nerve cells. The virus may reactivate years later and cause the painful clusters of blisters known as shingles. 

Older people and those with compromised immune systems are more vulnerable to the virus returning. After the blisters from shingles vanish, there may be severe agony for a long period. This is called postherpetic neuralgia.

The Centres for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) in the United States recommends receiving the Shingrix shingles immunisation to anybody 50 years of age or older. The FDA further suggests Shingrix for those who are 19 years of age or older and have a compromised immune system as a result of disease or medical treatment. Shingrix is still recommended even if you've already had shingles or received Zostavax, the previous shingles immunisation.

There are many shingles immunisations available outside of the United States. To learn more about how successful they are at preventing,

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Chickenpox Diagnosis

  • The rash is typically used by medical experts to diagnose chickenpox.
  • Furthermore, laboratory tests that evaluate skin samples or blood can be performed to confirm the diagnosis of chickenpox.

Chickenpox Treatment

It is often not essential to treat chickenpox in otherwise healthy youngsters. Some children may be able to take an antihistamine prescription to help with their itching. But generally speaking, the disease just needs to run its course.

To shorten the illness's duration and lower the risk of complications, medical experts may advise medicine to individuals who are more vulnerable to chickenpox-related difficulties if problems are very likely to arise.

In case you or your child is more vulnerable to problems, your doctor could prescribe an antiviral drug like acyclovir to fight the virus. The symptoms of chickenpox may be lessened by this drug. But, within 24 hours after the rash's beginning, they should be used most effectively.

Complementary antiviral drugs such as valacyclovir and famciclovir may also mitigate the illness's severity. This may not be appropriate or acceptable to everyone, though. In some circumstances following viral exposure, your healthcare provider may recommend receiving chickenpox immunization. By doing this, the sickness could be prevented or its intensity may be reduced.

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Chickenpox Complications

The chickenpox is often a mild infection. But it could be harmful and result in further health problems, like:

  • Skin, soft tissues, bones, joints, or bloodstream infections caused by bacteria.
  • The body is considered dehydrated when it is lacking in water and other fluids.
  • Pneumonia is an illness of one or both lungs.
  • The swelling of the brain,  called encephalitis.
  • One potentially deadly side effect of several bacterial infections is toxic shock syndrome.
  • The illness known as Reye's syndrome causes swelling of the brain and liver. This can happen if kids and teens take aspirin when they have chickenpox.
  • A case of chickenpox might very rarely be fatal.

Individuals with the following characteristics are more susceptible to problems from chickenpox:

  • Neonates and infants whose mothers never received the chickenpox vaccine. Children under one-year-old who have not had any vaccinations are included in this.
  • Both teens and adults.
  • Expectant moms without a history of chickenpox.
  • Those with HIV or cancer, or those using immune-suppressive drugs.
  • People who suffer from chronic diseases like asthma and use medicine to suppress their immune system. or those who take medicine to suppress their immune system following organ transplantation.

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