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Home » Children's Health » Chickenpox advice: signs, symptoms and how to care for your child
Children's Health Q3 2023

Chickenpox advice: signs, symptoms and how to care for your child

Dr Abigail Collins

HSE National Clinical Lead Child Health Public Health

Dr Ellen Cosgrave

Specialist Registrar in Public Health Medicine, HSE National Child Health Public Health

Chickenpox is a common infectious disease in childhood, caused by a virus. For most children, it is unpleasant, but they can be cared for at home.

Chickenpox is often well-known for its typical itchy red rash, which can blister.

At first, the rash looks like small red spots. These later become itchy blisters full of fluid. The rash usually first appears on the chest, back or face. New spots can keep appearing for three to five days after the rash begins. Most children with chickenpox are unwell for about five to seven days. After one to two weeks, the scabs fall off naturally.Other common symptoms include:

  • Fever
  • Feeling tired and irritable
  • Aches and pains
  • Loss of appetite

How chickenpox is spread

Chickenpox is very infectious, so it can easily spread to others. It spreads by the fluids that are coughed or sneezed into the air and from contact with fluid from the blisters. A person with chickenpox is infectious from two days before the rash appears until the last blisters have dried up. During this time, your child should stay home from school or crèche until all scabs are crusted over.

Because chickenpox is a virus, it
cannot be treated with antibiotics.

Avoiding contact with vulnerable people

You and your child should avoid coming into contact with other people, especially babies and people with weak immune systems. You should also avoid contact with pregnant women. If your child has chickenpox and you are pregnant, ring your GP/midwife for advice. Most women have had chickenpox as a child, so it is unusual to get it when you are pregnant, but your GP/midwife can discuss it with you further.

Chickenpox treatment and vaccine

Because chickenpox is a virus, it cannot be treated with antibiotics. Treatment is about controlling the itching and other symptoms — and making sure your child drinks enough fluids. There are medications and creams available from your local pharmacy to help soothe the itching, and you can speak to your pharmacist about this.

You should keep your child’s fingernails clean and short. You can put socks on their hands at night to stop them from scratching. Taking paracetamol can help, but do not give your child aspirin. Hot baths can make the itch worse; use lukewarm water instead. Most children with chickenpox can be cared for at home. There is a vaccine to protect against chicken pox. It is not part of the routine childhood vaccination but is available at a cost from many GPs.

For more information on chickenpox, including signs and symptoms and when to seek help, visit
For trusted child health advice, including further advice on coughs, colds and viral infections, visit

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