Chicken pox FAQ

I have received a quite a few questions concerning chicken pox. Below is a list of frequently asked questions (FAQs) concerning this topic.

What is chicken pox?

Chicken pox has a fancier medical name called varicella zoster. It is a virus which infects the body causing the typical illness. To understand why it is called "chicken pox" see "Why is it called Chicken Pox?".

How do you catch chicken pox?

Humans are the only animals that get chicken pox. Therefore, the only way to catch it is by being around a person who has it. The virus is spread through secretions and by tiny droplets, so sharing saliva (kissing, infant's toys, etc.), sneezing, and coughing are good ways to get the virus from one person to another.

What is the incubation period?

When we get infected with any cold virus, it takes a while for the virus to replicate enough to cause symptoms. This period of being infected before symptoms show up is called the incubation period. The incubation time for chicken pox prior to the onset of the cold symptoms can be up to 24 days.

What are the symptoms?

Most people know about the rash, but chicken pox starts out looking just like a common cold. Runny nose, sneezing, cough, and fever are typical first symptoms of chicken pox. Then about three to five days later the rash shows up. The rash itself looks like dots ranging from the size of an eraser head to about the size of a dime. Within each of these dots is a fluid filled vesicle which may pop over the course of the following days. The lesions may be painful, itch, or not be bothersome at all. They may be found anywhere on the skin, in the mouth and within the vaginal area and even unseen within the penis. Because of this, it may be painful to urinate.

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