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Even though chicken pox is one of the most common viruses that children between 4 and 12 years old experience, many people are still not sure exactly why the virus occurs, how it spreads or how to manage chicken pox symptoms.
What is chicken pox and what does it look like? Chicken pox (also called varicella) is a very contagious viral infection that usually affects children. But it can also affect adults who are not immune to the virus. The virus is often mild in children but more serious in adults. In most cases chicken pox goes away within several weeks, but, rarely, in severe cases it can be life-threatening.
What makes chicken pox tricky to prevent is that it is contagious within one to two days of someone catching the virus, which is several days before they usually show any symptoms. Chicken pox symptoms usually include an itchy skin rash characterized by small, fluid-filled blisters that later form crusts. (1) Some of the first signs and symptoms of chicken pox might also include fever, abdominal pain, fatigue and muscle aches.
What Is Chicken Pox?
Chicken pox is the common name for the varicella-zoster virus. The virus is very contagious and can spread quickly through transmission of respiratory droplets that travel through the air, or from direct contact with another infected person’s skin fluids. The varicella-zoster virus (VZV) is a very common type of alpha herpes virus that causes both symptoms of chicken pox (varicella) and symptoms of shingles (herpes zoster). The virus is actually one of the herpes viruses (there are several types); acquiring chicken pox does not mean someone then has herpes.
Chicken pox symptoms usually affect children between the ages of 2 and 12 (the virus is most common between the ages of 4 and 10). When someone has chicken pox as a kid but overcomes it, it’s possible that the virus will become dormant in their immune system only to become reactivated at a later stage in life. When this happens the person develops shingles, another virus that causes a painful skin rash.
How long does chicken pox usually last? It’s rare for chicken pox symptoms to last more than two weeks, starting from the time when blisters first appear to when they disappear. Most people have a chicken pox rash for about 5–10 days. (2) How quickly someone is able to overcome the virus depends on the strength of their immune system and their current health.
Chicken Pox Symptoms & Signs
How can you identify chicken pox? The easiest way to recognize chicken pox is by looking for a red, itchy rash that forms on the face, scalp, chest, back and, to a lesser extent, the arms and legs. The most common chicken pox symptoms include: (3)
- Developing a red skin rash that is usually severely itchy and uncomfortable. Chicken pox rashes go through three stages, but usually the skin feels itchy the whole time. The rash first fills with clear fluid, then ruptures and forms crusts. Breakouts of the rash can continue happening for one to…
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