In this section
Chickenpox is an infection caused by the
varicella virus. It cannot be treated with antibiotics. Treatment
is usually to relieve the symptoms.
It is easily spread by either having direct
contact with (ie touching) the person who has chickenpox, or from
fluid droplets in the air when they cough. Fever and a rash are
the most common signs of chickenpox. A person with chickenpox is
infectious to others from one to two days before the rash first appears until the last blisters have dried up. Children and adults of any
age can get chickenpox but it is more common in
One in 5,000 people who catch chickenpox will develop a brain
inflammation called encephalitis, and three in 100,000 will die. A
chickenpox vaccination is recommended for children aged 18 months
as part of their normal schedule of vaccinations. It is very effective, has few
side effects and is free of charge in Victoria.
Chickenpox is highly contagious, which means it is very
easy to catch. It can be spread by either
having direct contact with the person who has chickenpox, from
coughed fluids from their chest or by touching the liquid from the
blisters. Children with chickenpox are infectious from one to two days
before the rash first appears until the last blisters have dried up.
It can be difficult to make sure children
drink enough when they are unwell. Give sips of drinks, jelly, icy poles, soup and other fluids often. This helps prevent
dehydration and controls the fever. Children with chickenpox
can feel tired and irritable. Taking paracetamol can help, but do not
give your child aspirin.
Children with chickenpox should not go to
school or kindergarten until the last blister has dried. A dry blister
scab is not infectious. You should tell the school if your child gets
chickenpox as there may be other children who need to be immunised or
Someone with chickenpox is infectious to
others one to two days before the rash starts until the last
blister has dried up. Some members of the family may need to stay
away from the child during this infectious stage. This includes
people who are on chemotherapy or long term oral steroids, newborn
babies and pregnant women who have not had chickenpox before. Most
people cannot get chicken pox again if they have already had
Children with chickenpox can usually be cared
for at home and do not need to see a doctor. If you are concerned,
see your family doctor or Maternal and Child Health Nurse.