Chickenpox - All you need to know

Can you get chickenpox with vaccine?

The chickenpox vaccine is essential for getting yourself immunized against the virus. However, here the question arises: can you get chickenpox with vaccine? Unfortunately, you can still get chickenpox even after the vaccination.

There’s no specific rule which says that getting the chickenpox vaccination won’t make you prone to the viral infection. If an individual becomes immunized against chickenpox after getting the vaccine, there’s still a chance that they can get the virus. It’s possible to be exposed to the virus through the droplets expelled by a person infected with chickenpox when they cough or sneeze. However, someone who has become immune to the chickenpox virus after previously suffering with it will not be able to be infected by the acute form.


The symptoms in an immunized individual will be mild. Mild symptoms include a low-grade or no fever and only a few blisters. The blisters appear on the limbs or hairline of the person, while the macular rash can also appear on the neck, chest, abdomen, and scalp. Very few erythematous lesions can also occur on the buccal cavity. If chickenpox appears in those who have been vaccinated, it subsides within 10 to 14 days because of their strong immunity. Thus, the treatment of these patients is considered conservative.

Read about Chickenpox symptoms, and 4 things you can do to help


In the conservative management patients with chickenpox, calamine solution is applied on the skin where the macular rash is present. Moreover, antihistamine drugs such as are given to patients. These drugs help to prevent the symptoms of allergies.

If we talk about the statistics, there is only a 2-3% chance of getting the chickenpox virus after being vaccinated against it. That means that 95-97% of people do not get the virus after being vaccinated.

Now a new question arises: why do people who get vaccinated develop milder symptoms or none at all? This happens when the vaccine of varicella is injected into the individual’s body. As a result, the body produces a reaction against it. This reaction is called an antigen-antibody reaction. Antibodies are produced in the body and make the body immune to this virus.

Read about Chickenpox and shingels – whats the difference?

At what age should your baby get a chickenpox vaccine?

Your baby should get shot of the chickenpox vaccine between the ages of 12 to 15 months. This vaccine is called the varicella vaccine and helps to prevent the serious complications of chickenpox disease.

These complications include bacterial infections, hepatitis, encephalitis, or pneumonia. The chickenpox disease is also called varicella. It involves a diffuse rash caused by the varicella-zoster virus. Therefore, it’s best that your baby get the chickenpox vaccine on time in order to develop their immunity.

After receiving the varicella vaccine around the age of 12 months, your baby becomes immunized within three months. Still, if your baby is unable to get the vaccine against chickenpox at the right age, no worries! It’s still possible to get the shot at the age of 13. When a child receives the vaccine at this age, they will develop immunity within four weeks.

Why is receiving the varicella shot necessary?

A person who hasn’t been vaccinated against chickenpox will become easily prone to the exanthem. Even if they recover, it doesn’t mean that the virus goes away.

The virus remains in the dorsal ganglionic cells. These cells are also called sensory ganglions. When the unimmunized child reaches late adulthood, the virus present in the ganglionic cells may reactivate.

After reactivating, this virus can attack the body more severely. For example, it may develop exanthem over the dermatomes. This appears as a rash. The rash seems like tiny vesicles and appears all over the body, including all the extremities, trunk and back, face, hairline, sides, etc.

An unimmunized child may develop a fever of 104 °F. They may also develop the other complications of the chickenpox. On the contrary, a child who has had the varicella immunization at the right time will not be prone to chickenpox and, if they do develop chickenpox, will have milder symptoms. Furthermore, while these symptoms subside of their own within a short period, you should still be careful with your child’s health. Make sure you know the right schedule for getting your child immunized against chickenpox. 

Vaccination Booster

When you take your child to get vaccinated, your doctor may advise you to come again for another shot at a specific time. This is the vaccination booster. The vaccination booster is an extra shot of the immunity antigen given after the very first shot of the vaccine. The vaccination booster shot is given to increase the level of immunity of a person against the specific antigen.

Different types of vaccinations have different timings for administration. One of such booster doses of vaccination is varicella-zoster. This vaccine, when combined with its booster dose, is more than 95% effective in preventing the disease. The vaccination is given in two doses at 0.5 ml. The schedule for the booster dose depends upon two conditions:

  1. If the child has received the first dose of vaccination at the age of 12 months to 15 months, the second booster dose is given when the child is 4 to 6 years old.
  2. If the first dose of vaccination is received by an adolescent at the age of 13 years, the booster dose is given after an interval of 4 to 6 weeks.

As we know that the child receives a single shot of vaccine equal to 0.5ml, this means that when a child receives the booster dose of vaccine, they end with a total 1 ml of the varicella vaccine. However, why are vaccination booster doses given? And why is there an interval between the 1st dose and the booster shot?

Why boost the vaccine?

To answer this, it’s important to understand the concept of vaccinations. Vaccines contains a weak version of the virus which is inserted into the body. This mean the virus is detected and our bodies form antibodies to fight against it. When the first shot is given, immunity starts to develop inside a person’s body.

The development of immunity, however, takes time. For example, it takes nearly three months for the antibodies against varicella to create immunity.  Moreover, immunity may not develop completely inside a person’s body; that’s the reason for the booster shot.

Chickenpox vaccination duration

Chickenpox is a disease that can easily affect your child if they aren’t immunized. This can lead to the development of the following symptoms:

  • High-grade fever
  • Macular rash
  • Itching
  • In severe cases, complications such as bacterial infections, pneumonia, and protracted vomiting.
  • In severe cases, the virus also affects the visceral organs of an individual.

On the other hand, the child or adult who receives the vaccination at the right time remains protected against this viral disease. Moreover, if they do become infects, the symptoms of the disease appear to be very mild.

Next, how long does it take to develop immunity against this viral infection? The answer to this question is simple; almost 3 months are required to develop immunity for a child.

Similarly, if an adult gets the vaccination at the age of 13, they will develop immunity within a period of 4 to 5 weeks.

When you get your child immunized, one question always arises: for how long does the chickenpox vaccination remains effective? When someone gets immunized against the varicella virus, they will remain immunized for a period of 10 to 20 years.

During this period, there is almost a 95% chance that they will not get chickenpox. Plus, even if they do become infected, they will not develop severe symptoms.. Moreover, the recovery phase will be faster than the developmental phase and the virus will subside within a few days.

To get your immunity against the virus for 10 to 20 years, it is necessary to receive both shots of the vaccine. These include the primary shot and the booster dose. If you haven’t received the chickenpox vaccination, you can become prone to the disease.

What side effects or risks are there?

The chickenpox vaccine is also termed as a varicella vaccine. This vaccine is necessary for the prevention of the varicella infection. However, there are a few side effects or risks associated with it which will be discussed below.

Side effects associated with the chickenpox vaccine:
  • Minor injection site reactions
  • The appearance of a varicelliform rash
  • Other associated side effects
  • Allergic reaction
Minor injection site reactions:

The chickenpox vaccine is given in the deltoid (shoulder) muscle. As a result, a site reaction occurs in two cases: either as a reaction of the skin to the needle or as a result of an allergic reaction to the drug injected.

 Reactions include redness, swelling, and itching at the site of injection. Bruises can also form at the injection site. These types of reactions occur in almost 20 % of vaccines.

The appearance of varicelliform rash:

After getting the vaccination, 3-5% of people experience a simple rash at the injection site. The 3-6 % of people are those who develop the varicelliform rash outside the injection site. This rash appears as a mass of small blisters and is painful for the patient.

Other associated side effects:
  • Fever
  • Cough
  • Heaviness in the chest
  • Convulsions or body tremors
  • A feeling of weakness/ fatigue
  • Upset stomach
Allergic reaction:

An allergic reaction can also occur in response to the chickenpox vaccine. The signs and symptoms of an allergic reaction include:

  • Dizzy feeling
  • Increased palpitations
  • Swelling of body parts such as lips, face, or hands, etc.
  • Shortness of breath
  • Urticaria

Risks of varicella vaccine:

Before the administration of the varicella vaccine, you should also be aware of the risks. If you meet the conditions given below, please consult your healthcare practitioner before injecting the vaccine.

  1. Do not inject vaccine if you have developed a severe allergic reaction after previous doses
  2. The chickenpox vaccine is not suitable for those children who have immunodeficiency
  3. The chickenpox vaccine should not be injected in pregnant females
  4. Premature babies are also at risk of the chickenpox vaccine
Chickenpox - All you need to know

Is chickenpox shingels? Or whats the difference?

Is chickenpox and shingels the same?

Shingles is a viral infection that causes a painful rash. Shingles is very contagious and can easily be transmitted from the infected person to the baby; they will suffer from shingles if they have already suffered from chickenpox in their life. The rash usually appears as a single stripe of blisters that wraps around either the right or left side of the trunk. The rash can also appear on the limbs and the face, but this is less common. The varicella-zoster virus causes both chickenpox and shingles, but shingles result from the reactivation of the virus after it has previously caused chickenpox. This is because the virus remains in the body even after recovery from chickenpox.[i]

Symptoms of chickenpox and shingels

Both shingles and chickenpox start as a rash, but painful blisters later appear for shingles instead of the red, itchy blisters of chickenpox (read about chickenpox symptoms). Babies suffering from shingles may feel headaches, tingling, itching, and pain before the appearance of the rash. These symptoms are not present in babies with chickenpox. Other symptoms of shingles include nausea, diarrhea, chills, and gastrointestinal upset. The shingles virus attacks neurons so, when other symptoms have disappeared and the patient has recovered, it’s possible to experience postherpetic neuralgia. This is a serious complication of shingles characterized by nerve pain while sleeping and taking a shower. Once an individual has suffered from chickenpox, they are immune for the rest of their life. In contrast to this, a patient who has suffered from shingles once can suffer from it again for the second or third time.[ii]


Treatment for shingles includes both home remedies and medical treatment:

Home Remedies:

  • Take a cool shower to comfort the skin. Cool water reduces pain due to blisters and lowers itchiness.
  • Moist and cold compresses several times a day.
  • Apply cornstarch and baking soda paste to the rash.
  • Use pain-reducing creams and lotions.
  • Dietary modifications include consuming foods high in vitamins A, C, E, B-12, and amino acids. These foods strengthen the immune system and help in a speedy recovery.

Medical Treatment:

Antiviral drugs are available to reduce the severity of symptoms and shorten the length of recovery. These medicines include acyclovir, famciclovir, and valacyclovir and are more effective when used as soon as the symptoms appear. For relieving pain, over the counter pain killers can be used.1

Read Can you get chickenpox with vaccine?


[i] Torpy, J. (2011). Shingles. JAMA305(2), 212. doi: 10.1001/jama.302.1.112

[ii] Gould, D. (2014). Varicella zoster virus: chickenpox and shingles. Nursing Standard28(33), 52-58. doi: 10.7748/ns2014.

Chickenpox - All you need to know

Understand the Symptoms of Chickenpox and How to Manage Them

What is Chickenpox?

Chickenpox is a contagious infection caused by the varicella-zoster virus (VZV). It commonly affects babies and children, but adults can also suffer from it. The significant sign of chickenpox is a severely itchy skin rash with red eruptions. After the first several days, the blisters tear and start to leak. Next, crust and scab forming occurs followed by healing. Babies less than two years of age are most susceptible to chickenpox and above 90% of cases occur in babies, although it is generally mild. The blisters formation usually starts at the chest, back, and face. In some severe cases, it may involve the mouth, nose, eyes, and genitals.[i] Other important risk factors of VZV infection are:

  • Premature babies
  • Not having had the VZV infection before
  • No vaccination against the VZV infection
  • Autoimmune disease
  • Pregnant women
  • Living with children
  • Patients with cancer

chickenpox symptoms

Symptoms of chickenpox

Babies with the chickenpox virus do not usually show any symptoms until 10 to 21 days after contact.

  • The infection usually starts with a feeling of tiredness, fever, and sleeping more than usual.
  • After 3 to 5 days, an itchy rash begins. This rash initially appears as red dots which spread into crops of minor blisters over the face, chest, abdomen, and back. In many babies, the infection stops at this stage and recovery begins.
  • In some severe cases, these soon appear on the rest of the body, including the mouth, eyes, nose, ears, and genitals. The blisters are itchy and form periodically. New blisters form when older ones scab over and dry up. The rash leaves scars when the blisters or scabs are scratched or the sores get superinfected.
  • Chickenpox may last anywhere between 5 to 10 days. Meanwhile, the rash comes in waves and it is usual to see blisters, bumps, red spots, sores, and scabs all at the same time.[i]

Read Is chickenpox shingels? Or whats the difference?

chickenpox symptoms

How contagious is Chickenpox?

Chickenpox is a highly contagious disease and spreads easily from an individual with chickenpox. Chickenpox can transmit through different routes:

  • Transmission through direct contact from person-to-person (by saliva).
  • Indirect transmission via blister fluid that touches objects like toys, utensils, etc.
  • Aerosol transmission by contaminated droplets produced during coughing and sneezing.

Babies with chickenpox become contagious one to two days before the onset of symptoms, such as the rash, until crust or scab formation on all blisters. Vaccinated babies who get chickenpox develop eruptions that don’t crust; these patients are considered contagious until no new lesions have appeared for one day.

It takes about 10 to 20 days for a person to develop chickenpox after contact with an infected person. Vaccinated people can also spread the disease if they are carrying the varicella infection. For most people, getting the varicella infection once provides life-long immunity, but some people are likely to acquire chickenpox more than once. Babies who develop shingles (another disease caused by VZV) can also get chickenpox via the fluid present in blisters.[i]

How to diagnose Chickenpox (a doctor’s job)

The diagnosis of chickenpox is relatively easy. Physicians can make a confirmed diagnosis by examining the rash and asking about the history of other symptoms and exposure to the VZV virus. For unconfirmed cases, additional tests are applied, including:

  • Blood test: A blood test can be done to confirm if you are immune to the disease or carrying an active infection. Blood is taken and checked to see whether any VZV antibodies are present.
  • Viral test: Sometimes, a viral culture is done instead of a blood test. A fluid sample is taken from an eruption and sent to the laboratory where the specimen cultured. After a while, it is examined for the varicella-zoster virus.

In some other cases, the physician may prescribe additional testing. These cases include pregnant women, vaccinated babies, babies with a mild disease, and the presence of atypical symptoms.

Some other diseases can also cause an itchy, raised red rash or blisters on the skin. The following skin disorders result in rashes which are similar to and can be confused for chickenpox:

    • Scabies
    • Impetigo
    • Insect bites
    • Contact dermatitis
    • Herpes simplex virus
    • Drug reaction[i]

chickenpox symptoms

3 good treatments 

Some common over-the-counter drug options are available to relieve symptoms of chickenpox, like itching, pain, etc., if they become too much to bear or are troublesome to the body during day or night.

Calamine Lotion

Calamine lotion is an over-the-counter topical formulation containing zinc carbonate or zinc oxide. It relieves the itch when applied directly to the affected part of the body and allowed to dry. It is now also available in clear forms. Calamine lotion comes in different compositions, so it’s important to follow any precautions printed on the bottle. Take care not to apply lotion to the eyes and mucous membranes of the nose, mouth, genitals, and anus as it can cause severe irritation in these parts.

Acetaminophen (Tylenol)

Chickenpox characteristically causes viral symptoms like fever, fatigue, headache, and muscle aches. Acetaminophen (Tylenol) or Ibuprofen (Motrin), both non-steroidal anti-inflammatory drugs (NSAIDs), can relieve many of these viral symptoms. The dose is adjusted properly for the kids according to age and weight. Aspirin should not be used for babies due to the adverse effects (Reye’s syndrome). Reye’s syndrome is a complex of symptoms such as nausea, vomiting, lethargy, confusion, violent behavior, irritability, unresponsive baby, seizures, and sleepiness. Make sure not to give any medication containing aspirin to a baby or child under 16.

Oral Antihistamines

For severe itching, the oral antihistamine Diphenhydramine (Benadryl) is effective. This medication commonly causes drowsiness, so it’s best to take it at night. For daytime use, new generation antihistamines such as Loratadine (Claritin), Cetirizine (Zyrtec), or Fexofenadine (Allegra) cause less sedation.

If your baby is exposed to a patient of chickenpox but does not yet have symptoms, the physician may prescribe an injection containing immunoglobulin. This can help prevent severe chickenpox.[i]

4 things you can do yourself

Chickenpox can be curable using different home remedies. Dermatologists mention the following tips:

  1. Chickenpox is very contagious. Keep your baby at home and limit exposure to other people until all chickenpox blisters have turned to scabs and no new blisters form. It typically takes about 5 to 6 days for the blisters to become scabs.
  2. Soak in colloidal oatmeal baths; colloidal oatmeal will help relieve the itch. Oatmeal contains compounds such as beta-glucans which may reduce the intensity of inflammation and itchiness. Add the oatmeal under the outlet while the tub is filling with warm water. After a bath, use a topical ointment like petroleum jelly, calamine lotion, or anti-itch lotion. Avoid using topical antibiotics as they may cause an anaphylactic reaction.
  3. Keep your baby’s fingernails trimmed short; this will avoid skin infections caused by scratching the blisters. Also, put gloves or socks over their hands to stop scratching.
  4. To relieve fever, use non-aspirin medicines such as acetaminophen or ibuprofen. Relieve itchiness by oral antihistamines.5

Read Can you get chickenpox with vaccine?

Vaccination and prevention

  • Babies cannot get the vaccine until they are at least one year old. However, cases of chickenpox in babies under 12 months went down by 90 percent. The best method to prevent chickenpox in a baby under one year of age is to have the chickenpox vaccine. Everyone, including babies, adolescents, and adults, can get two doses of the chickenpox vaccine if they’ve never suffered from chickenpox and never got vaccinated in the past. Receiving two doses of the chickenpox vaccine is around 94% effective in preventing the disease. Babies who receive the vaccination can still suffer from chickenpox, but of a mild severity.

    Babies should get the chickenpox vaccine as per their regular vaccine schedule:

    • Between 12-15 months of age (1st dose)
    • Between 4-6 years of age (2nd dose)

    Adults and children that aren’t vaccinated should get two doses of the vaccine with a month gap.

    Some babies should not get the chickenpox vaccine. This includes those:

    • Who recently got a blood or gamma globulin transfusion
    • With a weakened immune system
    • Who have had an allergic reaction to a prior dose of the chickenpox vaccine
    • On steroids or other medications that weaken the immune system
    • Undergoing radiation or chemotherapy
    • Who are severely ill[i]

Chickenpox in pregnancy

Pregnancy is an intricate process and any disease occurring during pregnancy will result in a more exaggerated response than usual. Chickenpox symptoms take 14 to 16 days to show after infection. Chickenpox during pregnancy may occasionally cause complications; it has been observed that the risk of developing pneumonia increases significantly during pregnancy due to chickenpox infection. The effects of chickenpox while a woman is pregnant depends on the gestational age.

If the woman is infected within chickenpox during the first 20 weeks of pregnancy, there’s a risk that newborn babies may develop a condition called “Fetal varicella syndrome”. This syndrome is a rare condition and occurrence is less than 1%. However, the risk increases to 2% after 20 weeks of pregnancy. It may cause grim complications like eye defects in newborns (such as cataracts), shortened limbs, brain damage, and scarring. Chances of premature birth (birth before 37 weeks of gestation) increases. If a woman is infected with chickenpox a week before or a week after delivery of the baby, serious complications arise. This infection can be fatal. If a woman has chickenpox during pregnancy or seven days after delivery, she should urgently see her doctor. Interaction with anybody who is already infected should be strictly avoided.[i]


[1] Judith Breuer, H. (2020). Chickenpox. Retrieved 14 May 2020, from

[2] Welsby, P. (2006). Chickenpox, chickenpox vaccination, and shingles. Postgraduate Medical Journal82(967), 351-352. doi: 10.1136/pgmj.2005.038984

[3] Kharchenko, G., & Kimirilova, O. (2017). THE COURSE OF CHICKENPOX IN ADULTS AND CHILDREN. CHILDREN INFECTIONS16(1), 56-60. doi: 10.22627/2072-8107-2017-16-1-56-60

[4] Watkins, J. (2011). An overview of the diagnosis and treatment of chickenpox. British Journal Of School Nursing6(7), 324-328. doi: 10.12968/bjsn.2011.6.7.324

[5] Jonathan Cohen, J. (2020). Chickenpox: treatment. Retrieved 14 May 2020, from

[6] Breuer, J. (2006). Vaccines against chickenpox and zoster. Journal Of Clinical Virology36, S4. doi: 10.1016/s1386-6532(06)80704-3 

[7] Lamont, R., Sobel, J., Carrington, D., Mazaki-Tovi, S., Kusanovic, J., Vaisbuch, E., & Romero, R. (2011). Varicella-zoster virus (chickenpox) infection in pregnancy. BJOG: An International Journal Of Obstetrics & Gynaecology118(10), 1155-1162. doi: 10.1111/j.1471-0528.2011.02983.x

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