Causes ,signs and characteristics of Chickenpox

The dreaded Chickenpox!


Chickenpox or varicella as it is known medically is a mild and common childhood illness that pretty much all children will catch at some point. Chickenpox is most common in children under the age of 10,and within the UK it is estimated that 9 out of 10 people will have had chickenpox by the age of 15 (NHS Whales, 2013).


What they are?  


Chickenpox typically consist of an chickenpoxitchy rash of spots that look like blisters. The spot like pox can appear all over the body and be accompanied by flu-like symptoms.

They typically first appear on the abdomen or back and face and then can spread to almost anywhere on the body.       (Image: Kidshealth, 2012)

They are very contagious and so guidelines suggest keeping children off school or nursery until the blisters/ spots have crusted over, usually 5-6 days after the first appearance of the rash (Health Service Executive, n.d).


So what causes Chickenpox?


Chickenpox is caused by the varicella-zoster virus. The virus spread just as any cold of flu virus would spread and is usually contained in the millions of droplets that come out of the nose and mouth when an infected person sneezes or coughs (Health Service Executive, n.d). Contact with infected objects or surfaces may also cause the spreading and contraction of the virus.



The incubation period is the period from becoming infected to when symptoms first appear usually takes 14 to 21 days. The virus is most infectious 1 to 2 days prior to the rash appearing and continues until all blisters have crusted; typically why children are asked to stay off school and nursery. Following having the chickenpox infection, the virus can lay dormant in the nervous tissue for several years. With time it may reactivate as a virus known as the shingles (NHS Whales, 2013).


Signs, symptoms & characteristics:

The chickenpox typically begins with some mild flu-like symptoms, this includes:

  • High temperature 38C or over
  • Headache
  • Feeling sick
  • Loss of appetite
  • Muscle pains and aches

Shortly after the flu-like symptoms the spots begin to appear. Spots typically first appear on the abdomen, back and face and then can spread to anywhere on the body; around/ in ears, over scalp, inside mouth, around hands and feet and the genital area. Spots usually form in clusters and are typically red and itchy. The spots usually develop into blisters and become intensely itchy after about 12-14 hours. After a few days the blisters begin to crust over and soon over the following weeks the crusting skin will fall off. New spots may appear 3-5 days after the rash and so the blistering/ healing of the spots may occur at different stages (NHS Choices, 2015).


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