Chickenpox Can Be Serious
Chickenpox is a very contagious disease. You or your child may be at risk if you have never had chickenpox or have never gotten the vaccine. Chickenpox causes a blister-like rash, itching, tiredness, and fever. This can make you feel sick and very uncomfortable and cause you to miss 5 to 7 days of school or work.
First the Rash, Then the Blisters
Anyone who hasn’t had chickenpox or received the chickenpox vaccine can get the disease. Chickenpox most commonly causes an illness that lasts about 5-10 days. The classic symptom of chickenpox is a rash that turns into itchy, fluid-filled blisters that eventually turn into scabs. The rash may first show up on the face, chest, and back then spread to the rest of the body, including inside the mouth, eyelids, or genital area. It usually takes about one week for all the blisters to become scabs.
Other typical symptoms that may begin to appear 1-2 days before rash include:
· high fever
· loss of appetite
Children usually miss 5 to 6 days of school or childcare due to their chickenpox.
Some people who have been vaccinated against chickenpox can still get the disease. However, the symptoms are usually milder with fewer blisters and mild or no fever. About 25% to 30% of vaccinated people who get chickenpox will develop illness as serious as chickenpox in unvaccinated persons.
Chickenpox used to be very common in this country. About 4 million people would get it each year. Also, 10,500 to 13,000 people were hospitalized and 100 to 150 people died because of chickenpox each year. Most people who had severe chickenpox were healthy beforehand. Read a mother’s story about her 13-month old child who had severe chickenpox [PDF – 380KB].
Thankfully, chickenpox vaccine has changed all that.
Chickenpox Vaccine: Your Best Protection
Chickenpox vaccine is the best way to protect you and your child from chickenpox. Also, when you get vaccinated, you protect others in your community. This is especially important for people who cannot get vaccinated, such as those with weakened immune systems and pregnant women.
New CDC Podcast: Chickenpox – What You Need to Know
CDC researcher Jessica Leung provides the basics on chickenpox, its symptoms, how it spreads, and how to protect you and your family from getting it. Listen to the Podcast [04:26 minutes]
Children should get the first dose of chickenpox vaccine when they are 12 through 15 months old and the second dose at age 4 through 6 years. People 13 years of age and older who have never had chickenpox should get two doses at least 28 days apart. If you or your child only got one dose in the past, check with your doctor about getting a second dose.
Two doses of chickenpox vaccine are very effective at preventing severe disease, complications, and death. You can still get chickenpox if you have been vaccinated. But, it is usually milder with fewer blisters and little or no fever.
Some people should wait to get vaccinated or should not get vaccinated at all, including pregnant women and those with severe weakened immune systems. Chickenpox vaccine is safer than getting the disease. Make sure you and your children are protected.
Chickenpox Can Be Severe
Chickenpox can be severe for babies, adolescents, adults, pregnant women, and people with weakened immune systems. It can cause—
· bleeding problems
· brain infection or inflammation
· bacterial infections of the skin and soft tissues in children including Group A streptococcal infections
· blood stream infections (sepsis)
· toxic shock syndrome
· bone infections
· joint infections
If you have any questions about chickenpox or the vaccine, talk with your doctor.
Paying for Chickenpox Vaccine
Most health insurance plans cover the cost of vaccines. But, you may want to check with your insurance provider first. If you don’t have insurance, or if your plan does not cover vaccines, the Vaccines for Children Program may be able to help. This program helps children who are eligible get the vaccines they need. The vaccines are provided at no cost to doctors who serve children who are eligible.
To learn more about chickenpox and vaccination, visit
· Varicella (Chickenpox): Unprotected Story [PDF – 380KB] – a mother’s story about her 13-month-old child who had severe chickenpox