Varicella, also known as "chickenpox," is a common infection in children. Fortunately, a shot or vaccination can be given to your child to prevent varicella from developing. Children who have not had chickenpox or a vaccination should be given the shot by age 13. Once your child has had chickenpox, he/she is immune (cannot get it again).

What causes chickenpox?

Chickenpox is caused by a virus (called varicella). This type of virus can be spread from one child to the next. It can be spread by coughing, sneezing and talking. It also may be spread by touching the fluid that comes out of the chickenpox blisters. If your child is exposed, it can often take anywhere from 10 days to 3 weeks before he/she will get sick.

What are symptoms of chickenpox?

Symptoms of chickenpox include:

  • Skin rash: The rash may appear as small red bumps; first showing up on the trunk and scalp, then spreading to the arms and legs. The rash then forms water blisters, which will eventually break and crust over. It takes two weeks for all the blisters to completely crust over and then scab.
  • Itching
  • Fever
  • Headache
  • Tiredness

When will my child be admitted to the hospital for chickenpox?

Your child will be admitted to the hospital if he/she:

  • Is dehydrated - not taking fluids well
  • Is having difficulty breathing
  • Has a skin infection

What diagnostic tests will my child undergo?

Diagnostic tests will include:

What treatments/management approaches will be considered to care for my child?

  • IV for medications (antiviral medications or antibiotics
  • IV for fluids
  • Medications for pain, itching, swelling
  • Cold compresses

When will my child be ready for discharge?

Your child will be ready for discharge when he/she is:

  • Drinking fluids
  • Tolerating the pain, itching and swelling with compresses or medicines
  • Resolving any secondary infections

What will be the follow up for my child after discharge?

  • Follow up will be with your primary health care provider
  • Follow up will be within 5 to 7 days following discharge
  • Your primary health care provider will examine and evaluate your child’s recovery

When should you call your health care provider?

Call your health care provider if your child has:

  • A recurrence of fever
  • Sores in the eyes
  • Sores that get bigger or have pus in them
  • Trouble breathing or is breathing very fast

© Copyright 1995-2017 The Cleveland Clinic Foundation. All rights reserved.

This information is provided by the Cleveland Clinic and is not intended to replace the medical advice of your doctor or health care provider. Please consult your health care provider for advice about a specific medical condition. This document was last reviewed on: 1/4/2011…#13081