When is chickenpox contagious? The earliest symptoms and signs

Chickenpox is incredibly contagious, particularly for children. But did you know you can spread chickenpox before the first red bump appears on your skin? These are the earliest signs of chickenpox to look out for.

At this time of year, chickenpox cases are on the rise.

The itchy illness is most commonly associated with younger children, as it can spread rapidly around nursery or school classrooms.

However you can get chickenpox at any age, and it can be more dangerous for adults and vulnerable people.

How does chickenpox spread?

Chickenpox is an infection caused by an extremely contagious virus.

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The virus causing chickenpox is called the varicella zoster virus.

Chickenpox is transmitted through the air when you cough or sneeze, or by touching infected blisters.

If you haven’t had chickenpox yet and someone you live with gets it, it’s almost impossible to avoid it.

Chickenpox is extremely contagious.

You are most infectious one or two days before the chickenpox rash appears, meaning it’s possible to spread the virus before you even know you have it.

A person with chickenpox is still contagious until all their spots have crusted over – this can take around five days or a week after the rash appears.

If someone has chickenpox, or suspects they might be coming down with it, they should avoid contact with the most vulnerable groups of people.

In the case of chickenpox, these are young babies, pregnant people and any immunocompromised people.

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What are the symptoms of chickenpox?

It can take anywhere from 10 to 21 days after contracting the virus to experience symptoms.

The most well known symptom is the red full-body rash, but some people will feel ill before they develop a rash.

Symptoms such as a fever, headache, sore throat and lack of appetite are associated with chickenpox.

It can take around two weeks for the chickenpox rash to clear up.

How can you treat chickenpox?

Chickenpox symptoms can be incredibly irritating, and especially when toddlers and children have the infection, it can be really tough to convince them to stop itching without prompting a meltdown.

Most of the time, you can treat chickenpox at home without needing to see a doctor.

These tips can help manage the symptoms of chickenpox:

  • Stay hydrated by drinking plenty of fluids
  • Wear smooth soft cotton clothing to avoid irritation
  • Cut your nails so you can’t scratch your skin too hard
  • Consider giving young children mittens to stop them from itching
  • Wash even more regularly to avoid infection – some people find an oatmeal or cornflour bath helps soothe their skin too

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