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What are Some Symptoms of Chickenpox?

By Phil Shepley
Updated Feb 24, 2024
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Chickenpox is an infectious and highly contagious disease most commonly found in children and is caused by the varicella zoster virus, which is one of eight herpes viruses that are known to infect people. There are several symptoms of chickenpox to be aware of when someone first contracts the infection, as well as several common symptoms that occur while the body goes through the cycles of healing itself of the infection. In addition to the most common symptoms, there are also more rare symptoms that can occur due to chickenpox, depending on the person, and some symptoms can potentially be severe.

Chickenpox can initially be contracted through the air or by physical contact and the symptoms are also often present after someone receives a chickenpox vaccine. The first signs to be aware of are usually a low fever accompanied by tiredness and mild headaches that will begin about ten to twenty days after contracting chickenpox. These symptoms do not always occur before one of the main symptoms shows, which is an itchy skin rash that usually begins on the face and scalp. One to five days prior to this rash is when a person becomes contagious and is most likely to transfer the disease to other people.

The rash is followed by the most commonly perceived symptom of chickenpox – several hundred blisters, as many as 500, that appear from head to toe. Eventually these blisters will turn into scabs after which a person usually is no longer contagious. New blisters will typically continue to appear for about a week.

Sometimes the symptoms of chickenpox can be more severe, for instance when the disease is contracted by a pregnant woman. In this case, the virus can infect the fetus in what is known as fetal varicella syndrome, a condition which can lead to a wide range of problems with the fetus’ growth including malformation, brain damage, and more. If a newborn contracts chickenpox, they are highly at risk for pneumonia and other complications of the typical symptoms that can become dangerous and even deadly. Similarly, in an adult who contracts chickenpox, it is more likely for the symptoms to become serious, and sometimes the varicella virus can reactivate and cause shingles - a painful skin rash. Other more serious symptoms of chickenpox that can occur in anyone are high fever, vomiting, diarrhea and dehydration.

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Discussion Comments
By Lostnfound — On Oct 29, 2014

@Grivusangel -- I was in the first grade, too. Seems like I remember feeling a little punk the day before I broke out, but it wasn't bad. I even felt all right a day or so later. Then -- it got bad.

I had scabs from the top of my head to the soles of my feet and everywhere in between -- and I mean that literally. Everywhere. The only place I didn't have spots were on my eyeballs and on my fingernails and toenails, and the palms of my hands. But everywhere else? Yep. In my ears, in my nose... I even had a place in the back of my throat, making it a torment trying to eat or even drink water. My fever hovered around the 103.8 mark for four days. My mom washed my hair twice a day because of the vesicles on my scalp.

I don't remember how long I was out of school -- over a week. The one upside is that the rumor is that the worse your chickenpox were, the less likely you are to get shingles. If that's true, shingles will not be a problem for me. But I'll still probably get the vaccine!

By Grivusangel — On Oct 28, 2014

I was in first grade when I got chickenpox. I don't remember feeling bad beforehand, at all. No tiredness or anything. My sister found the first blister on me. We were getting ready for church and she was zipping up my dress and stopped. "What is *that*!" Then she went running. "Mama! She's got the chickenpox!"

Mom came and looked at my back. Sure enough, I had it. So my first scab (that I noticed) popped up in the middle of my back. I was out of school for a week, which didn't bother me a bit. I stayed with my grandmother and watched "The Price is Right" and all the trivia game shows all week.

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