Chickenpox is very common, especially amongst younger children aged between 2 and 8 years old. It is a highly contagious infection, which is usually spread quickly. The infection has an incubation period of 10 days before spots appear; this means children can easily come into contact with infected children without being aware.

Causes of chickenpox

Chickenpox is caused by a virus known as the varicella-zoster virus; it is spread via airborne droplets of saliva and mucus that are released when an infected child coughs or sneezes.

Symptoms of chickenpox

It can take up to 3 weeks for visible symptoms of chickenpox to appear after a person has come into contact with the virus; however, during this time, children may be unusually emotional and clingy and they may feel nauseous, run down and achy; they may also have a high temperature. The most obvious sign of chickenpox is the rash that develops on the surface of the skin; this rash is instantly recognisable because there are a large number of small spots all over the body. The chickenpox spots can be very itchy and are usually clumped in patches behind the ears, on the face, arms, legs, chest, stomach and scalp. Once the spots have scabbed the infection should not be contagious but it is best to keep your child off school or nursery until the spots have almost all gone to prevent a spread of infection.

Treating chickenpox

Chickenpox does not have a cure but there are some treatments that can be used to tackle the symptoms; these include pain relief to soothe head and muscle aches and bring temperature down and calamine lotion to stop the spots from itching and being sore; children should also be encouraged to get plenty of rest and take in lots of fluids. It is rare to develop chickenpox more than once as the body should have built up antibodies to protect against the virus in the future; however, some people do suffer more than one episode and the symptoms are usually much worse in adults. Children with chickenpox should be kept away from pregnant women, as this can harm both the mother and the baby.

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