Varicella: What You Need to Know About This Common Contagious Disease

Varicella About

What is Varicella?

Varicella (also known as chickenpox) is a highly contagious disease caused by the varicella-zoster virus. The infection is mainly spread through direct contact with an infected person or by exposure to an infected person’s saliva or respiratory secretions. It typically results in an itchy rash of small, red bumps that can develop into blisters and eventually form a scab. If a person has not yet been exposed to the virus, they can get it from someone who has it. Symptoms can include fever, fatigue, and body aches, though more severe complications can also occur in some cases.

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Symptoms of Varicella

The most common symptoms of varicella are itchy, red, fluid-filled blisters that form on the skin. The blisters spread quickly and can occur anywhere on the body, but usually begin on the face, scalp, arms, and legs. Other symptoms of varicella include fever, tiredness, headache, and loss of appetite. It takes 10-21 days after exposure to the virus before symptoms start to develop.

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Complications from Varicella

In some cases, complications from varicella can occur, such as bacterial skin infections, pneumonia, encephalitis (inflammation of the brain), and even death. The varicella-zoster virus can also cause a reactivation of the infection later in life, resulting in shingles.

Treatment for Varicella

Doctors usually recommend bed rest and taking over-the-counter medications such as ibuprofen and acetaminophen to reduce fever and discomfort from the rash. A doctor may prescribe an antiviral medication such as acyclovir to treat moderate to severe cases of varicella. Vaccines should be given to children 12 months of age or older to protect against the virus.

Preventing Varicella

Along with making sure your child is vaccinated for varicella, it is also important to practice good hygiene to prevent the spread of the virus. Washing your hands with soap and warm water, covering your mouth when coughing and sneezing, and avoiding close contact with people who may have the virus are all important actions to take in order to avoid infection.


Varicella is a highly contagious disease that is caused by the varicella-zoster virus. It can result in an itchy rash, fever, and fatigue if not treated. While there is no cure, vaccines can help to prevent it, and medications can be used to reduce symptoms and severity of the infection. Additionally, good hygiene and avoiding contact with someone who is infected can also help to reduce your risk of contracting the virus.

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