Chickenpox: Guide to its Causes, Treatment, and More!

Bajaj Finserv Health
April 12th, 2022
8 mins read

Key Takeaways

  • The global disease burden of chickenpox is estimated at 140 million cases
  • Itchy rashes and red fluid-filled blisters are common chickenpox symptoms
  • The chickenpox vaccine is around 90% effective in preventing the infection

Chickenpox is caused by the varicella-zoster virus. It is an infection that causes an itchy skin rash along with small fluid-filled red blisters. The disease is highly contagious and is more common in children. Adults can also get it if they have never had it before or are not vaccinated against it. Varicella is not common today, thanks to the chickenpox vaccine. The infection goes away within several days as the blisters start leaking once they pop. They finally heal when they crust and scab over.

The annual global disease burden of chickenpox stands at an estimated 140 million cases. Of these, there are 4.2 million cases that lead to severe complications. Every 16 out of 1000 people get this disease in developed countries [1]. In rural southern India, this disease had an overall attack rate of 5.9%. Children under 5 years were more prone to it with an attack rate of 15.9% [2]. To protect yourself and your loved ones, read on to learn more about chickenpox symptoms and treatment.

Additional Read: Contact Dermatitis

itchy skin

Chickenpox symptoms 

Some of the early and late signs of chickenpox include the following: 

  • Fever 
  • Headache 
  • Tiredness 
  • Spots 
  • Fatigue
  • Itchy rashes
  • Crusts and scrabs
  • Stomach ache
  • Blotchy skin
  • Loss of appetite
  • Muscle or joint aches
  • Small fluid-filled blisters
  • Raised red or pink bumps
  • Cold-like symptoms including cough and runny nose

Chickenpox causes 

The varicella-zoster virus causes chickenpox. You can contract it if you come in direct contact with an affected person. You are also at risk of the disease if the infected person coughs or sneezes and you inhale the air droplets. The chances of getting this disease increase if you never had this disease or have not taken the vaccine against it. In rare cases, people get chickenpox more than once. Those vaccinated against it are immune to it. If you still contract the disease after vaccination, the symptoms will be mild.

Almost 90% of chickenpox cases develop among young children. However, it can occur in adults too. So, your risk of getting this disease increases if you work in a school, child care facility, or live with children, particularly those under 2 years of age. Infants, newborns, pregnant women who never had chickenpox, people with weak immunity, smokers, and or those on steroid medications have a greater risk of chickenpox. The disease becomes highly contagious 1-2 days before the occurrence of rash until the blisters crust over.

Chickenpox complications

Stages of chickenpox 

There are 3 stages of based on how the rash appears. They are: 

  • Papules – Raised red or pink bumps that break out over several days 
  • Vesicles – Fluid-filled blisters that appear in about 1 day and leak after breaking 
  • Crusts and scabs – Broken blisters that take some days to heal completely

Chickenpox diagnosis 

A doctor or nurse will usually diagnose a child or adult with chickenpox by looking at the skin and asking several questions about the symptoms. If you are not sure whether you had this disease previously or if you did not get vaccinated, a laboratory test may be done to determine if you had the condition in the past. Those who had previously encountered the virus develop immunity against it. If you are not sure, get tested for proper diagnosis.

Chickenpox diagnosis 

Chickenpox treatment 

Chickenpox fades within a week or two without any treatment. However, there is no cure available for this disease. But a chickenpox vaccine is about 90% effective and can prevent the disease. Other prevention measures include avoiding close contact with affected people, practicing isolation, not sharing objects, and disinfecting surfaces.

Some medicines and measures can reduce or alleviate symptoms. They include: 

  • Pain-relieving medications like can ease pain and high fever. Doctors may normally advise you to avoid aspirin and ibuprofen when you have it. 
  • Antiviral medications reduce the severity of chickenpox symptoms. These are most effective within 24 hours of the appearance of symptoms.
  • Drink loads of water as dehydration is a complication caused by this disease
  • Reduce itching to reduce the risk of scarring. Cool baths, topical ointments, or oral Benadryl tablets can help.
  • Having sugar-free popsicles when you have spots in the mouth can relieve symptoms of mouth soreness.

Additional Read: Warts Types, Causes and Treatment

Chickenpox caused by the varicella-zoster virus and other skin problems need proper care and treatment to prevent complications. To ensure you take good care of your health, get doctor consultation on the Bajaj Finserv Health platform. Here, you can consult with specialists like dermatologists to get the right treatment at the right time.

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