Chickenpox is an infectious disease caused by varicella zoster virus. It is very common among children but may affect adults also. Infection by this virus causes red blisters in different parts of the body. This skin condition has become less common with the advent of chickenpox vaccination. The disease is usually self-limiting and does not develop into a serious condition. It may affect people whose immune system is compromised, and pregnant women who have difficulty in fighting infections. After the first infection, the virus remains in the body, but does not generally produce an infection again. Active virus in the body can produce shingles after many years of the initial infection.
The most common symptom of disease is the presence of typical rashes on the skin. In most cases, before the appearance of the rashes, the following may be seen as initial symptoms of infection.
Other symptoms include:
Rashes start appearing about one to two days after the appearance of the initial symptoms. Few may not have any initial symptoms but develop rashes all on a sudden. A typical chickenpox rash starts as a small, itchy, raised red spot on the skin. These spots gradually develop into blisters, which burst later on. The open sores resulting from the blisters then dries up leaving crusts on the skin. The rashes usually appear first on the face followed by body and scalp. The highest concentration of the rashes will be seen on the trunk. The rashes take about three days to complete the different stages from red spots to crusts. The appearance of red spots continues for a week or so since the start of the symptoms on the face. Thus one may have red spots, blisters, open sores and crusts, all at the same time. Once the sores are completely scabbed, the disease will not spread to anyone around. In some rare cases where secondary infections develop on the sores, the blisters may leave prominent scars on the skin.
Children who have had chickenpox may get a mild form of the infection with few rashes on the body. They recover soon enough and in many cases the infection goes totally unnoticed. But they still remain infectious and can spread the virus to others who come in contact with them.
One should get medical attention if:
- There is a green colored discharge from the sores
- There is severe pain in the rashes
- The person is lethargic and has stiff neck
- The person complains of fever, vomiting and convulsions
- The person is pregnant