Chickenpox Symptoms

kid with chickenpox in bed with a high temperature

If you have been reading the news recently or you have kids attending school you will be more than aware that chickenpox is everywhere at the moment. A chickenpox rash or infection is very common childhood illness. The virus is spread through direct contact therefore, it is highly contagious – especially in schools. Chickenpox symptoms can occur in a variety of different ways before the visible outbreak of red spots appear on the skin’s surface.

kid with chickenpox in bed with a high temperature

So, we have a compiled a list of chickenpox infection symptoms to check against your child if they are feeling under the weather lately.

Itchy Rash

Chickenpox is also known as varicella-zoster virus. One of the most recognisable symptoms of chickenpox is the contagious, itchy skin rash. The rash is made up of small, fluid-filled blisters that spread across the whole body. Blisters can also appear inside the body too including inside the mouth, eyelids, or genital area. chickenpox spots make individuals feel uncomfortable and sore but you must remember to always resist the urge to itch as picked spots can create lifelong scars.

swabbing chickenpox spots

How long will I have this itchy rash?

Chickenpox works in 3 stages.

Stage 1: Small spots darker than your skin will appear. They are usually pinkish in appearance on paler skin tones. For darker skin tones the spots may be harder to spot. They can start on your back or belly and spread to your scalp, eyes, mouth, arms, legs and genitals.

Stage 2: Spots will fill with fluid and become blisters. Don’t itch them as they will burst and scar. You must let them burst on their own.

Stage 3: The blisters will start to heal over, some may flake others may leak fluid.

After about 24 to 48 hours, the fluid in the blisters will get cloudy and the blisters begin to scab over – try very hard not to itch them as they will scar you.

Chickenpox blisters show up in waves. So after some begin to crust over, a new group of spots might appear. It usually takes 10–14 days for all the blisters to be scabbed over and then you are no longer contagious.

What can I use to soothe my child's itchy spots?

  • Wear socks or gloves on hands to stop your child from itching their spots.
  • Apply an anti-itch cream such as Eurax 10% Cream to soothe the skin and stop the spots from itching. Eurax is suitable for use on children over 3 and works for up to 10 hours.
  • Bathe in lukewarm or cold water and lightly pat skin dry.
  • You can use calamine lotion or cooling gels on your skin too to prevent itching.

High Temperature

The average human body temperature is 98.6 F (37 C). But normal body temperature can range between 97 F (36.1 C) and 99 F (37.2 C) or more. You will know yourself or your child has caught a fever if their temperature has raised by 1 whole degree. E.g from 37.2 C to 38.2 C.

For chickenpox the temperature is believed to cause individuals to have high temperatures between 101°–102°F (38.3°–38.8°C). 

If you have recently been very active you body temperature will naturally rise. So if you are checking your child or your own temperature please make sure you haven’t recently been active to get the most accurate results. If you are an elderly person or you are looking after an elderly person please take into account that their body temperatures will naturally be lower than the average adult.

high temperature

How long will I have a temperature?

An infected person will have a temperature for the first few days of the infection. Temperatures can be controlled by many different ways. If you have a child or loved one with a high temperature here are few things you can do to combat it:

  • Give them plenty of fluid to drink.
  • Look out for signs of dehydration.
  • Give them food if they want it.
  • Check on your child regularly during the night.
  • Keep them at home.
  • Take cool or lukewarm baths every 3 – 4 hours
  • Use a cold wet compress on their heads i.e a wet flannel.
  • Give them paracetamol if they’re distressed or unwell.
  • Get medical advice if you’re worried about your child. Ring 111 if temperature hasn’t stabilized and your child is still dehydrated.

Aches and pains, and generally feeling unwell

Before or after the rash appears, you might also get aches and pains or start to feel generally feeling unwell. This is usually one of the first symptoms of the this viral infection. Individuals typically start to feel the first symptoms 10 to 21 days after being exposed to the virus.

baby with tummy pains

How do I soothe aches and pains?

Try pain relief remedies like Acetaminophen (Tylenol) for Pain and Fever or Paracetamol. Avoid anti-inflammatories like Ibuprofen as they can worsen your condition. Don’t give children under 16 aspirin as it can lead to Reye’s Syndrome which is a severe illness that affects the liver,  brain and can cause death.

If your child has tummy aches and isn’t suffering with a high temperature a hot water bottle can be a great soothing remedy.

If your child is suffering with sore pains in their mouths or throat, it will be difficult for them to eat and drink certain things. Give cold, soft, bland foods because chickenpox in the mouth can make it hard to drink or eat. Avoid anything acidic or salty, like orange juice or crisps.

Loss of appetite

Viral and bacterial infections can cause loss of appetite. As your body recovers from an illness it’s normal to experience a loss of appetite. Here are some small steps you can take towards getting your healthy appetite back…

kid with no appetite
  • Get plenty of rest.
  • Exercise lightly before meals to stimulate appetite.
  • Select enjoyable foods and foods that have a pleasant aroma.
  • Plan meals the day before eating them.
  • Stay well hydrated – if you have a saw mouth or its unpleasant to drink, try ice cubes or ice lollies.
  • Aim for 6-8 small meals and snacks per day.

Who is chickenpox mostly a threat to?

teddy bear on hospital chair
  • Pregnant women who haven’t had chickenpox before.
  • Newborn babies
  • Smokers
  • Adults are affected more seriously by chickenpox than children. 5-14% of adults with chickenpox develop lung problems, such as pneumonia.
  • People with HIV/AIDS or cancer
  • Patients who have had transplants
  • People on chemotherapy, immunosuppressive medications, or long-term use of steroids.
  • People with lower immune systems will also experience much harsher symptoms of the chickenpox virus and could even be hospitalized.

How can I protect myself and my kids from chickenpox?

  • There is a vaccine for chickenpox available in the UK. The first jab is given to babies aged 12 – 15 months and the second jab is given to kids aged 5 – 6 years old.
  • People who have had chickenpox before have a much higher immunity to chickenpox and are at very low risk of catching the contagious illness.
  • Avoid contact with anyone who has chickenpox.
kids huddled together

We hope you’ve found this chickenpox symptoms blog helpful. If you have any other queries about your child’s health please visit our Parenting page. If you have are pregnant and have any further health concerns head over to our pregnancy page, you’ll find everything from ectopic pregnancies to postnatal care. You’ll find lots of great tips and hacks as well as fun educational articles.

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