Frequently Asked Questions (FAQs) About Chickenpox

Frequently asked questions about chickenpox

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  • Chickenpox spreads similarly to the cold virus. You can get infected if you breathe in particles of the virus, which have been expelled by an infected individual, from the air
  • The disease is most contagious a day or two before the rash appears and until the rash is completely dry and scabbed over, about five to six days after the onset of the rash

Q: How do you get chickenpox?

A: Chickenpox spreads similarly to the cold virus. You can get infected if you breathe in particles of the virus, which have been expelled by an infected individual, from the air. Chickenpox can also spread via saliva, or by using or touching items (clothes, eating utensils and personal care items like toothbrushes) that an infected person has handled or used.

Another way of contracting the virus is by touching the blisters or fluid from the blisters. This is one reason why people with chickenpox are advised against scratching the rashes — aside from the potential to spread the virus, it can also pave ways for bacterial infections.

Q: How does chickenpox start?

A: Contrary to what most people think, the appearance of rashes is not the first sign of chickenpox. Instead, other early symptoms like fever, body ache and headache may manifest a day or two before the rashes are seen.1 Afterward, the rashes appear in crops, first on the face, back and chest, and then eventually all over the body. Read the Symptoms page to learn the other telltale signs of this illness.

Q: What does chickenpox rash look like?

A: Chickenpox rash appears on the face, chest and back before spreading over the body. In extreme cases, even the genital area, eyelids or the inside of the mouth may develop these itchy rashes. There are three stages that a chickenpox rash goes through:

Small and raised red spots called papules

Clear fluid-filled blisters or vesicles

Scabs and crusts — the fluid becomes cloudy and dries out, forming crusty scabs that will eventually fall off

Remember that although some rashes heal and turn into scabs, new spots can appear in their place. Hence, an infected person may have a combination of spots, blisters and scabs on the body all at once.

Q: How long is chickenpox contagious?

A: The disease is most contagious a day or two before the rash appears and until the rash is completely dry and scabbed over, about five to six days after the onset of the rash.

Q: What is the typical chickenpox incubation period?

A: The incubation period of chickenpox (the period between exposure to the virus and first appearance of the symptoms) falls anywhere between seven and 21 days (usually it's between 10 and 21 days).2 This is why some people who have been exposed to another individual who has the virus do not know they have the illness until after the symptoms start showing.

Q: Is chickenpox similar to herpes?

A: No. Although the varicella-zoster virus, which causes chickenpox and shingles, is part of a group of viruses known as herpes viruses (shingles is actually called herpes zoster), it is not the same as herpes. Herpes viruses are sexually transmitted infections that cause cold sores and genital sores, while chickenpox and shingles are airborne viruses that cause rashes all over the body.3

Q: Can you get shingles without having chickenpox?

A: No. Shingles occurs only in individuals who already have the varicella zoster virus in their body. While shingles is less contagious than chickenpox, and cannot be passed on from one person to another, remember that the virus can still spread to someone else who has never had it in his system. So, if you're an adult who has never had chickenpox and then acquires the varicella zoster virus in your system for the first time, you will develop chickenpox, not shingles.

MORE ABOUT CHICKENPOX

Chickenpox: An Introduction

What Is Chickenpox?

Chickenpox Symptoms

Chickenpox Causes

Chickenpox Treatment

Chickenpox Prevention

Chickenpox Diet

Chickenpox FAQ


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