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- Airborne droplets of moisture containing the VZV virus
- Direct contact with fluid from a chickenpox or zoster rash
- Close contact with an infected person, unless you have been vaccinated or have already had chickenpox
- Age: less than three years old, with peak incidence between 5-9 years old
- Immune-deficient state, such as having leukemia, an organ transplant, high-dose steroid use, or HIV
- Time of year—late winter, early spring
- Mild headache
- Moderate fever
- Sore throat
- Severe itch
- Lack of appetite
- General feeling of discomfort
- Some children complain of abdominal pain
Begins with small, flat, red spots:
- Spots become raised and form a round, intensely itchy, fluid-filled blister
- Blisters develop in clusters, with new clusters forming over 5-6 days
- Usually develops into patches on the skin above the waist, including the scalp
- May also appear on the eyelids, in the mouth, upper airway, voice box, or on the genitals
- Typically crusts over by day six or seven and disappears within three weeks
To Reduce Itching
- Apply wet compresses to the skin
- Apply over-the-counter anti-itch creams or lotions
- Take oatmeal baths
- Take an oral antihistamine
- Adolescents, adults, and individuals with weak immune systems
- Individuals with chronic skin or lung diseases and those taking aspirin or steroids
Vaccination in Children
Vaccination in Adults
Vaccination After Exposure
American Academy of Family Physicians http://familydoctor.org
Centers for Disease Control and Prevention http://www.cdc.gov
College of Family Physicians of Canada http://www.cfpc.ca
Baker CJ, Pickerling LK, et al. Advisory Committee on Immunization Practices. Recommended adult immunization schedule: United States, 2011. Ann Intern Med. 2011;154(3):168-173.
Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. Recommended immunization schedules for persons aged 0-18 years—United States, 2011. MMWR. 2011;60(5).
Gales SA, Sweet A, et al. The safety profile of varicella vaccine: a 10-year review. J Infect Dis. 2008;197(Suppl2):S165-9).
Marin M, Meissner HC, et al. Varicella prevention in the United States: a review of successes and challenges. Pediatrics. 2008;122: e744-51.
A New Product (VariZIG) for Postexposure Prophylaxis of Varicalla Available under an Investigational New Drug Application Expanded Access Protocol. MMWR. 2006;55: 209-210.
Skull SA, Wang EE. Varicella vaccination: a critical review of the evidence. Arch Dis Child. 2001;85:83-90.
Varicella (chickenpox) vaccination. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention website. Available at: http://www.cdc.gov/vaccines/vpd-vac/varicella/default.htm. Accessed May 30, 2013.
Vazquez M, LaRussa PS, et al. Effectiveness over time of varicella vaccine. JAMA. 2004;291:851-855.
1/31/2008 DynaMed's Systematic Literature Surveillance. Available at: http://dynamed.ebscohost.com/about/about-us: Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. Recommended immunization schedules for persons aged 0-18 years—United States, 2008. MMWR. 2008;57;Q1-Q4. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, MMWR website. Available at: http://www.cdc.gov/mmwr/preview/mmwrhtml/mm5701a8.htm. Updated January 10, 2008. Accessed January 28, 2008.
10/14/2008 DynaMed's Systematic Literature Surveillance. Available at: http://dynamed.ebscohost.com/about/about-us: Macartney K, McIntryre P. Vaccines for post-exposure prophylaxis against varicella (chickenpox) in children and adults. Cochrane Database Syst Rev. 2008;(3):CD001833.
- Reviewer: Michael Woods, MD
- Review Date: 05/2013 -
- Update Date: 05/30/2013 -