Chickenpox is an infection caused by the varicella-zoster virus. Most cases are in children under age 15, but older children and adults can get it. It spreads very easily from one person to another.
The classic symptom of chickenpox is an uncomfortable, itchy rash. The rash turns into fluid-filled blisters and eventually into scabs. It usually shows up on the face, chest, and back and then spreads to the rest of the body. Other symptoms include
- Loss of appetite
Chickenpox is usually mild and lasts 5 to 10 days. Calamine lotions and oatmeal baths can help with itching. Acetaminophen can treat the fever. Do not use aspirin for chickenpox; that combination can cause Reye syndrome.
Chickenpox can sometimes cause serious problems. Adults, babies, teenagers, pregnant women, and those with weak immune systems tend to get sicker from it. They may need to take antiviral medicines.
Once you catch chickenpox, the virus usually stays in your body. You probably will not get chickenpox again, but the virus can cause shingles in adults. A chickenpox vaccine can help prevent most cases of chickenpox, or make it less severe if you do get it.