Symptoms usually occur 10-21 days after contact with the chickenpox virus. Initial symptoms include:
- General feeling of malaise
- Loss of appetite
Within 1-2 days after the initial symptoms, a rash develops.
Characteristics of the rash include:
- At first, the rash consists of small, flat, red spots.
- The spots become raised and form clusters of round, itchy, fluid-filled blisters on a red base.
- The blisters develop in clusters, with new clusters forming over 5-6 days.
- Once the rash develops, there is usually a variety of spots visible: flat red areas, blisters with clear fluid, blisters with cloudy fluid, and open blisters. This variety helps doctors to be confident that the rash is due to chickenpox.
- The rash usually develops on the skin above the waist, including the scalp.
Exposed areas are often most significantly affected.
- The rash may sometimes appear on the inside of the eyelids, in the mouth, nose, throat, upper airway, voice box, rectum, or vagina.
In healthy children, the rash usually crusts over by day 6-7. The crusts are gone within three weeks, usually without scarring.
Adults or patients who are immunocompromised may have more severe cases that last longer.
The Merck Manual of Medical Information.
17th ed. Simon and Schuster, Inc.; 2000.
National Centers for Infectious Diseases, Centers for Disease Control and Prevention website. Available at:
National Immunization Program. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention website. Available at:
Last reviewed October 2012 by Michael Woods, MD
Please be aware that this information is provided to supplement the care provided by your physician. It is neither intended nor implied to be a substitute for professional medical advice. CALL YOUR HEALTHCARE PROVIDER IMMEDIATELY IF YOU THINK YOU MAY HAVE A MEDICAL EMERGENCY. Always seek the advice of your physician or other qualified health provider prior to starting any new treatment or with any questions you may have regarding a medical condition.
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