Chickenpox- Not a childhood right of passage

Identification and Definition

Chickenpox is a bump-like rash seen all over the body followed by itching, fatigue, and fever. It is very contagious and dangerous for those young, old, or with weakened immune systems.

History of Chickenpox

Giovanni Filippo(1510-1580) of Palermo is credited with the first description of chickenpox. In the 1600s Richard Morton called his subtle case of smallpox "chickenpox." In 1767 an English physician, William Heberden, was the first to demonstrate that chickenpox was different from smallpox. The name chickenpox came from a few different origins. Some called it "chicken" because there was no major harm to the body. Others said the bumps resembled a plucked chicken or chickpeas. In medieval times pox meant curse and they believed it was a plague brought onto their children from the use of black magic.

Transmission of Chickenpox

Chickenpox is caused by the virus varicella-zoster. This virus is highly contagious from a person who has chickenpox to someone who has never had it or who hasn't been vaccinated for chickenpox. Transmission occurs via air by coughing or sneezing or by touching or breathing virus particles.

Chickenpox can also be transmitted from someone with shingles.

Complications of Chickenpox

Chickenpox is most serious in infants, adolescents, adults, pregnant women, and people with weakened immune systems.

Some severe side effects include:



-Bleeding problems

-Infection/Inflammation of the brain

-Bacterial infections of the skin

-Blood stream infections

-Toxic shock syndrome

-Bone infections

-Joint infections

Recommended control of Chickenpox

At home treatment includes calamine lotion and oatmeal baths to help relieve itching. Trimming nails help to prevent skin infections. Acetaminophen can be taken to help relieve fever. Aspirin or aspirin containing medications CANNOT be taken, when used and mixed with chickenpox it is associated with Reye's disease and may cause death. Isolation from other children that have not had chickenpox or the vaccine is highly recommended.

Contact your doctor if you get chickenpox and:

-you are over 12 years of age


-weakened immune system

-fever more than 4 days

-fever higher than 102 degrees

-blisters become pussy, tender, red, or sensitive

-difficulty walking

-stiff neck

-difficulty breathing

-frequent vomiting


-extreme illness

Chickenpox vaccination

It is recommended that children receive two doses of the varicella vaccine. The first between 12-15 months and the other between 4-6 years old.

-In 2010, 90% of preschool aged students in the US received one dose of varicella vaccine

-Deaths due to varicella have decreased by 98.5% comparing 2008/2009 to 1990/1994

-Varicella incidence rates have fallen 90% in those who cannot receive the vaccine (1995-2008)