Childhealthy’s complete guide to chickenpox

September 14, 2023


Chickenpox, also known as Varicella, is a viral infection that causes unpleasant symptoms such as a typical skin rash, fever, headache and fatigue. If you’re reading this, it may be because your child has chickenpox. You might be wondering, how does chickenpox start? How do you protect your children from getting chickenpox? And whether they should get the chickenpox vaccine.

Chickenpox is an illness that causes itchy, fluid-filled blisters to appear all over the skin. Most children recover from chickenpox within 10 days. However, chickenpox can be uncomfortable for your little one and there are possible complications. We’ve compiled this advice article to give you some tips on how to deal with chickenpox, what causes chickenpox and how to keep your child comfortable while they have it.

a little boy with chickenpox

How does chickenpox start?

Varicella is commonly called chicken pox and is a very common infection. The illness is caused by the Varicella Zoster virus and is spread by droplets inhaled via the respiratory tract. It is characterised by a typical itchy rash, with small blisters filled with fluid. If you haven’t been vaccinated against the disease, or had it before, chicken pox will be very contagious. Approximately 90 per cent of all chicken pox cases occur in young children.

What are the symptoms of chickenpox?

The most common symptom is the itchy rash that usually appears ten to 21 days following exposure to the virus. The rash caused by chicken pox usually lasts five to ten days. There are other symptoms that can arise before the rash appears. These include loss of appetite; fever; fatigue; and headache.

A temperature appears at the start of the illness and is usually not very high. A high temperature can indicate a complication developing, such as sepsis and should always be checked by a doctor.

After the rash has appeared, there are three phases it will go through:

1) pink papules (bumps) which break out over a few days
2) small blisters filled with fluid, known as vesicles, which form before breaking and leaking
3) crusts which form, covering the blisters which have broken. These take a few more days to heal.

Scratching or popping any of the blisters could lead to infection; avoid using products like wipes which may irritate the skin; calamine lotion may help relieve itching, and finally, make sure they drink plenty of water to keep hydrated.

How long is chickenpox contagious for?

Chickenpox is most contagious when you have active blisters, as well as before and after. Children are usually most infectious for the 48 hours before the rash has appeared. The virus will be contagious until the blisters have crusted over.

How can I treat chickenpox?

Chickenpox usually requires no medical treatment for healthy children. In some cases, an antihistamine may be prescribed by your doctor, to relieve itching. If a child is at high risk of chickenpox complications, your doctor may prescribe an antiviral medication called ‘Aciclovir’ that can help to reduce complication risk and shorten the infection’s length.

Can a child get chickenpox twice?

Yes, a child can get chicken pox twice but it is very unusual. The majority of children who have chicken pox will be immune from it afterwards for life. The chicken pox virus stays in the body and can be reawakened later in life and cause Shingles.

Is there a vaccine for chickenpox?

Yes, the chickenpox vaccine is available privately. The chickenpox vaccine is not routinely given to all children via the immunisation schedule in the UK. It is part of many other international schedules including other countries in Europe, the US and Australia.

The vaccine is available for children from 1 year of age and is best given earlier in childhood.
Two doses of the chickenpox vaccine are recommended, with a minimum interval of 4 weeks between doses. A longer interval than 4 weeks between doses is fine.

The chickenpox vaccine is most effective when given in childhood, to younger children. No vaccine provides complete protection from an illness but the chickenpox vaccine is effective in children. Even if the vaccine does not give total protection, it still reduces the severity of chickenpox significantly.

A single dose will offer immunity to about nine in every ten children, while two doses – which are usually recommended – will offer a better immune response (around 98 percent).

For more information about chickenpox, please read our article on chickenpox in babies.

If you want to book an appointment for a chickenpox vaccine or speak to one of our Childhealthy paediatricians about it, you can contact us here.

Do you have a question for us about chickenpox? Or would you like to see something else featured in this article? Please do email us at with any questions.

If you do have any concerns about your child’s health, you can contact us at Childhealthy and one of our paediatricians will be happy to review your child’s development and offer any advice.


Related articles

February 10, 2023

Common Neurological Conditions in Children

Read more February 7, 2023

Hand, Foot And Mouth In Children And Babies

Read more January 13, 2023

Information On Group A Streptococcus Infection (Strep A)

Read more View all articles

Book your appointment

Clinic, remote appointments and home visits are available daily.

We can always find a time to suit you, so please do ask if you are having difficulty finding a suitable time.

Book an appointment