Chickenpox Shingles Varicella

Varicella / Chickenpox

Varicella commonly known as chickenpox is a highly contagious infection caused by the varicella zoster virus. The infection is spread in a similar manner to colds and flu.


Symptoms first appear between 10 and 21 days of becoming infected with chickenpox. The first sign of chickenpox is usually red spots which can be anywhere on the body. These spots then fill with fluid and become blisters, which may burst. The spots and blisters will then scab over. Spots around the genitals can cause pain when urinating. Symptoms are usually worse in adults.

Symptoms include;

  • feeling unwell
  • aches and pains
  • high temperature
  • rash
  • loss of appetite or babies may have problems with feeding

Treating children

Most children recover after a week of symptoms appearing, without needing to see their doctor.

You can treat your child at home by:

  • follow advice on how to deal with a high temperature
  • giving them plenty of fluids to prevent dehydration
  • dressing them in light clothing such as cotton – to keep them cool and reduce itching
  • bathing them in cool or lukewarm water – remember to pat their skin dry, don’t rub
  • putting socks on their hands at night to stop them from scratching
  • giving them child paracetamol – to reduce pain and high temperatures
  • keeping their fingernails short – to avoid them damaging their skin from scratching
  • a soothing gel or cream to reduce itching


The chickenpox vaccine is not part of the routine childhood vaccination programme in many countries. It may be administered to anyone over 12 months old. Two does of the vaccine are required, at least 4 weeks apart. This vaccine is not recommended to people with a weak immune system. Experts from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) estimate that the vaccine provides complete protection from the virus for nearly 98 percent of people who receive both of the recommended doses. When the vaccine doesn’t provide complete protection, it significantly lessens the severity of chickenpox.


Although shingles can occur anywhere on your body, it most often appears as a single stripe of blisters that wraps around either the left or the right side of your torso.

Shingles is caused by the varicella-zoster virus — the same virus that causes chickenpox. After you’ve had chickenpox, the virus lies inactive in nerve tissue near your spinal cord and brain. Years later, the virus may reactivate as shingles.

While it isn’t a life-threatening condition, shingles can be very painful. Vaccines can help reduce the risk of shingles, while early treatment can help shorten a shingles infection and lessen the chance of complications. link

Shingles appear as a rash or blotches on one side of the body only. You cannot spread shingles to others, however, people who have not had chickenpox could catch chickenpox from you.

Try to avoid:

  • pregnant women who have not had chickenpox before
  • people with a weakened immune system – like someone having chemotherapy
  • babies less than 1 month old – unless you are the mother, as they should be protected from the virus by your immune system