Chicken Pox (Varicella)

Chickenpox (Varicella) is a viral infection we had typically seen only in the Spring and the Summer. Now, after the advent of the Chickenpox Vaccine, it has become a rarity. Often, what you think is Chickenpox will turn out to be a rash from insect bites or due to an allergic reaction.

Chickenpox typically begins with fever, cold symptoms, and a sore throat. Then blister-like sores begin to appear first on the upper chest and back, and then progress to the neck and scalp, and later to the arms and legs. It is not unusual for the sores to appear inside the mouth. The sores on the body start as a red spot, which quickly progresses to a small fluid-filled blister ("dew drop on a rose petal"). You may see all of these stages at the same time, on different parts of your child's body.

The incubation period for the passage from one child to another is between 14-21 days. Chickenpox is highly contagious and passes through the air when the infected person coughs or even breathes. It stays contagious until all of the sores have dried up — usually 5-7 days after the onset of the rash. You cannot get Chickenpox unless you are directly exposed (by air or contact) to the infected child. You cannot get Chickenpox from Shingles (re-activation of Chickenpox) unless you actually touch the rash. Once you have Chickenpox, you typically cannot get it again.

For the majority of people, there is not a lot you can do to treat Chickenpox. You can use Tylenol for fever and pain. DO NOT use Aspirin or Aspirin containing products because they can cause a serious liver condition called Reye's Syndrome. Benadryl helps the itching (1 tsp. for every 25 pounds), as well as baking soda baths (1 box per tub), Aveeno baths, and Calamine Lotion.

Reasons to call the doctor during regular hours:

  • If the scabs look infected (red areas around the scabs which are bigger than a dime, yellow pus)

Reasons to call the doctor immediately:

  • If your child seems unusually ill
  • If your child vomits frequently
  • If your child appears disoriented
  • Let us know if your child is taking a steroid, like Prednisone and then gets ill with Chickenpox