Chickenpox Symptoms: Look Out for These Telltale Signs

Girl with chickenpox and fever

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  • Chickenpox symptoms in kids and adults are typically the same. However, the disease is typically more severe in the latter
  • The classic symptom of chickenpox is a rash that appears throughout the body. It first appears on the face, chest and back before spreading to the rest of the body

Once you come into contact with the varicella zoster virus, it will not cause any effects immediately. There’s an incubation period with this disease, usually anywhere between one and three weeks, before the hallmark signs appear.1 Chickenpox symptoms in kids and adults are typically the same. However, the disease is typically more severe in the adults. Some of the most common symptoms of chickenpox include:2

A spotty rash that turns into itchy fluid-filled blisters that eventually dry up into scabs

Fatigue

A fever of 100.4 degrees F (38 degrees C) or higher

Malaise (feeling generally unwell)

Headache

Loss of appetite

Aching, painful muscles


A person with chickenpox may experience these symptoms anywhere from five to 10 days,3 as the virus runs its course and the body fights off the infection. Before the rashes appear, the other typical symptoms may manifest one to two days prior.4

Chickenpox Stages: 3 Types of Rash

The classic symptom of chickenpox is a rash that appears throughout the body. It first appears on the face, chest and back before spreading to the rest of the body. Chickenpox rash may even appear on the genital area, eyelids or inside the mouth. The rash goes through three phases:5

Spots (papules) — In chickenpox’s early stages, which usually last for three days,6 the rash simply consists of small and raised red spots that first manifest on the face or abdomen before spreading over the body. It may be a few spots or hundreds at once. The palms of the hands, soles of the feet and inside of the ears are susceptible to these rashes, too.

Blisters (vesicles) — After a few hours or days, fluid will develop inside the rashes. These blisters are very itchy, but it’s crucial to avoid scratching them to prevent infections from occurring. Scratching the blisters can also lead to unsightly scarring.

Scabs and crusts — In the next few days, the fluid inside your chickenpox blisters will become cloudy and will dry out, forming scabs. These scabs will turn into crust, and fall off by themselves in the next week or two.

While some rashes heal and turn into scabs, new spots may form in their place — so there may be a combination of spots, blisters and scabs on your body simultaneously. For 48 hours before the rashes appear up until all the blisters have dried up and turned into scabs, chickenpox can be contagious,7 so keep away from people who may be at risk of developing complications.

Keep an Eye Out for These Signs of Complications

Children who have chickenpox usually feel unwell for a few days, but there are some who appear only mildly ill. Most of them will improve within a week. However, adults who get infected are at a higher risk of complications, and may experience worsened symptoms. Severe complications that can be caused by chickenpox include:8

Dehydration

Bacterial infections (the skin, bones, soft tissues, joints or bloodstream [sepsis] are susceptible)

Pneumonia

Encephalitis (inflammation of the brain)

Toxic shock syndrome

Reye's syndrome (occurs in people who take aspirin to relieve fever)

Other high-risk people include the elderly, pregnant women, infants and those who are immunocompromised. If you fall into any of these categories, be very cautious not to approach anyone with this disease.

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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