Chickenpox

Chickenpox is caused by the varicella zoster virus and is highly contagious; it is mainly a childhood disease.

Overview

Chickenpox is caused by the varicella zoster virus and is highly contagious; it is mainly a childhood disease. A very itchy rash with red spots and blisters that dry up and form scabs is typical.

Symptoms

Main symptoms

  • Severe itching
  • Rash covering the whole body, made up of red spots and fluid-filled blisters that contain viruses and are therefore contagious

The blisters dry out quickly, form scabs and then heal within a week or two. Complications in childhood are rare, but can occur in babies and people older than 30. Reactivation of the chickenpox virus later in life causes shingles (herpes zoster).

Other symptoms

  • Headache, lower back pain and painful limbs
  • Moderate fever

Causes and treatment

Causes

Chickenpox and shingles are caused by the same herpes virus (varicella zoster). The disease is mainly passed on by droplet infection (sneezing and coughing) and by the fluid in the blisters (scratching). People who have had chickenpox are immune against the disease for the rest of their lives, but can still contract shingles.

Further treatment by your doctor / in hospital

The symptoms are usually sufficient to make a diagnosis. Various blood tests can also be done.

Possible tests
  • Examination of the skin
  • Blood tests
Possible therapies
  • Itch relief creams / lotions, etc.
  • Medication against itching (antihistamines)
  • For severely ill patients, antiviral medication (virostatic agents)
  • Antibiotics if skin wounds are populated by bacteria

What can I do myself?

  • Cooling compresses, e.g. cold black tea
  • Dab the scabs with vinegar water (add a little vinegar to cold water)

Vaccination

The vaccination is recommended for children between 11 and 15 and for adults who have never contracted chickenpox. It is also recommended for children who have neurodermatitis or a weakened immune system.

When to see a doctor?

  • Scabs are severely infected and pus is formed
  • High fever
  • Severe headaches, apathy, epileptic seizure
  • If pregnant women, newborn babies, older people or persons with weakened immune systems are affected

Further information

Federal Office of Public Health (FOPH)
www.bag.admin.ch

Synonyms

chickenpox, varicella

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CSS offers no guarantee for the accuracy and completeness of the information. The information published is no substitute for professional advice from a doctor or pharmacist.

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