Chickenpox is common and mostly affects children, but you can get it at any age. It usually gets better by itself after 1 to 2 weeks without needing to see a GP.
An itchy, spotty rash is the main symptom of chickenpox. It can be anywhere on the body
Chickenpox happens in 3 stages. But new spots can appear while others are becoming blisters or forming a scab.
Stage 1: small spots appear
The spots can:
The spots fill with fluid and become blisters. The blisters are very itchy and may burst.
The spots form a scab. Some scabs are flaky while others leak fluid.
Before or after the rash appears, you might also get:
Chickenpox is very itchy and can make children feel miserable, even if they do not have many spots.
The chickenpox spots look the same on children and adults. But adults usually have a high temperature for longer and more spots than children.
It's possible to get chickenpox more than once, but it's unusual.
If you're not sure it's chickenpox
Check other rashes in children
Stay off school or work
You'll need to stay away from school, nursery or work until all the spots have formed a scab. This is usually 5 days after the spots appeared.
Speak to a GP if:
Tell the receptionist you think it might be chickenpox before going in to a GP surgery.
Get advice from 111 now if:
Some people may be able to take medicine to prevent complications. It needs to be started within 24 hours of the spots appearing.
111 will tell you what to do. They can arrange a phone call from a nurse or doctor if you need one.
Go to 111.nhs.uk or call 111.
Its easy to catch chickenpox
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.
When chickenpox can be spread
You can spread chickenpox to other people from 2 days before your spots appear until they have all formed scabs – usually 5 days after your spots appeared.
How soon you get symptoms after catching chickenpox
The spots start appearing around 1 to 3 weeks after you caught chickenpox.
Chickenpox in pregnancy
Most people get chickenpox during childhood, so it's rare to get chickenpox when you're pregnant.
If you do get chickenpox when you're pregnant, there's a small risk of your baby being very ill when it's born.
Go to 111.nhs.uk or call 111 if you have not had chickenpox before and you've been near someone with it.
The chickenpox vaccine
You can get the chickenpox vaccine on the NHS if there's a risk of harming someone with a weakened immune system if you spread the virus to them.
For example, a child can be vaccinated if 1 of their parents is having chemotherapy.
You can also pay for the vaccine at some private clinics or travel clinics. It costs between £120 and £200.
Shingles and chickenpox
You cannot catch shingles from someone with chickenpox.
You can catch chickenpox from someone with shingles if you have not had chickenpox before.
When you get chickenpox, the virus stays in your body. The virus can be triggered again if your immune system is weak. This causes shingles.
This can happen because of stress, certain conditions, or treatments like chemotherapy.
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