Sometimes children scratch the blisters and they can become infected. If this happens, you’ll need to take them to the doctor.
Very occasionally chickenpox can lead to serious complications, such as pneumonia, problems with the kidneys, heart, joints or nervous system. Chickenpox is also serious for pregnant women.
If there are no complications, chickenpox usually clears up within 3 to 7 days for adults, and 5 to 10 days for children.
The virus is spread through the air by infected people when they sneeze or cough, and by touching the chickenpox blisters then touching objects or other people.
People with chickenpox have small blisters (like a rash) on their skin.
These can be very itchy.
Other symptoms of chickenpox are:
If there are no complications:
Teenagers and adults are more likely to have complications or feel sicker from chickenpox than children.
Children often find it hard not to scratch the blisters and this can cause some of them to get infected. If this happens, you should take them to the doctor as antibiotics might be needed.
In very rare cases chickenpox can lead to pneumonia or problems with the kidneys, heart or joints. The nervous system may be affected, which may cause irritation and swelling in the brain (such as meningitis).
If you or a family member has any of the following symptoms with chickenpox, see your doctor or call an ambulance immediately:
Call Healthline 0800 611 116 if you are unsure what you should do.
Chickenpox during pregnancy can cause poor growth of the baby or even stillbirth.
It can spread to the baby during birth.
If you’re pregnant and think you have been exposed to chickenpox, you should have a blood test to check whether you’re immune. If you aren’t immune, your doctor may give you an injection that can prevent chickenpox or make it less severe.
Most people with chickenpox don’t need to see their doctor. Here are some things you can do to get through it (or help your child get through it):
Chickenpox is contagious one to two days before the rash appears. It stays contagious until all the blisters have crusted over and no new ones are appearing – which usually takes another four to five days.
Avoid close contact with other people during this period if you or a family member has chickenpox. Remember: chickenpox is serious for pregnant women and people who are have a reduced immune response (eg, children with cancer).
The chickenpox virus is spread through the air by infected people when they sneeze or cough.
Chickenpox can also spread through touching the blisters and then touching objects or other people.
Chickenpox vaccine is available in New Zealand at a cost. Talk to your doctor if you’d like the chickenpox vaccination for you or your child.
Immunisation is your choice. If you have questions, talk to your doctor or practice nurse or call the Immunisation Advisory Centre free helpline 0800 IMMUNE (0800 466 863).
If you’ve already had chickenpox, you’re probably immune. This means that if you’re exposed to chickenpox again, your body can fight off the infection and you won’t get sick.
If you had a very mild case of chickenpox with just a few blisters, it is possible to get chickenpox again, but this is very rare.