Contracting Chickenpox

What causes chickenpox and how is it contracted? Chickenpox is extremely contagious, and can be spread by direct contact, droplet transmission, and airborne transmission.

Some children who have been vaccinated will develop a mild case of chickenpox. They usually recover much more quickly, have much milder symptoms, and only develop a few dozen chickenpox blisters at most. These mild, post-vaccine cases are still highly contagious.

When someone becomes infected, the chickenpox blisters usually appear 10 to 21 days later. Sufferers become contagious 1 to 2 days before breaking out with blisters, and remain contagious while un-crusted blisters remain.

Once you have had chickenpox, the virus usually remains in your body for your lifetime, kept in check by your immune system. About 10% of adults may experience shingles when the virus re-emerges during periods of stress.

Most cases of chickenpox occur in children younger than ten. The disease is usually mild, although serious complications can sometimes occur. Adults and older children usually develop severe chickenpox.

Children under one year of age whose mothers have had chickenpox are not very likely to catch the disease. If they do, they often have mild cases because they retain partial immunity from their mothers’ blood. Children less than one year of age, whose mothers have not had chickenpox, or whose inborn immunity has already waned, can develop severe chickenpox.

Chickenpox tends to be worse for children who have other skin problems, such as eczema or recent sunburn.

In addition, complications are more common in those who are immuno-compromised from an illness, medicines, or treatments such as chemotherapy. Some of the worst cases of chickenpox have been seen in children who have taken steroids (for example, to treat asthma) during the incubation period, before they have developed any symptoms.