Symptoms of chickenpox include itchy red spots and blisters anywhere on the body.

Chickenpox usually gets better on its own after 1 to 2 weeks. You can ease symptoms with cooling creams, antihistamines and paracetamol.

You can catch chickenpox by being in the same room as someone with it. It's also spread by touching things that have fluid from the blisters on them.

Check if it's chickenpox

1. Chickenpox starts with red spots. They can appear anywhere on the body and might spread or stay in a small area.

2. The spots fill with fluid and become blisters. The blisters may burst.

3. The spots scab over. New spots might appear while others are becoming blisters or forming a scab.

Other symptoms

You might get symptoms before or after the spots appear, including:

  • a high temperature
  • aches and pains, and generally feeling unwell
  • loss of appetite

Chickenpox is very itchy and can make children feel miserable, even if they do not have many spots. Chickenpox is usually much worse in adults.

It's possible to get chickenpox more than once, although it's unusual.

How to treat chickenpox at home

You'll need to stay away from school, nursery or work until all the spots have crusted over.

This is usually 5 days after the spots appeared.

  • drink plenty of fluid (try ice lollies if your child is not drinking) to avoid dehydration

  • take paracetamol to help with pain and discomfort

  • put socks on your child's hands at night to stop scratching

  • cut your child's nails

  • use cooling creams or gels from a pharmacy

  • speak to a pharmacist about using antihistamine medicine to help itching

  • bathe in cool water and pat the skin dry (do not rub)

  • dress in loose clothes

  • check with your airline if you're going on holiday – many airlines will not allow you to fly with chickenpox

  • do not use ibuprofen unless advised to do so by a doctor, as it may cause serious skin infections

  • do not give aspirin to children under 16

  • do not be around pregnant women, newborn babies and people with a weakened immune system, as chickenpox can be dangerous for them

It's easy to catch chickenpox

You can catch chickenpox by being in the same room as someone with it. It's also spread by touching clothes or bedding that has fluid from the blisters on them.

How long chickenpox is infectious for

Chickenpox is infectious from 2 days before the spots appear, until they have all crusted over – usually 5 days after they first appeared.

How soon you get symptoms after coming into contact with chickenpox

It takes 1 to 3 weeks from the time you were exposed to chickenpox for the spots to start appearing.

[Last reviewed 2020-11-27]
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