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Chickenpox Can Be Serious. Protect Yourself and Your Child.

First the Rash, Then the Blisters

Classic chickenpox symptoms are—

  • Red, itchy rash that usually starts on the face, chest, and back then spreads to the rest of the body
  • Fluid-filled blisters, resulting from the rash, that break and crust over

Chickenpox is a very contagious disease. You or your child may be at risk if you have never had chickenpox or gotten the vaccine. Chickenpox causes a blister-like rash, itching, tiredness, and fever. This can make you feel sick and very uncomfortable and cause you to miss a week of school or work.

Most children with chickenpox completely recover. But, it can be severe for babies, adolescents, adults, pregnant women, and people with weakened immune systems.

Chickenpox used to be very common in the United States. Each year, about 4 million people would get chickenpox. Between 10,500 and 13,000 people would be hospitalized, and 100 to 150 people would die because of chickenpox. Most people who had severe chickenpox were healthy beforehand.

Read about a healthy teenager who got chickenpox and died.

Thankfully, chickenpox vaccine has changed all that.

Chickenpox Vaccine: Your Best Protection

Want to Know More About Chickenpox?

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Click “Disease of the Week,” find chickenpox, and take the quiz to test your knowledge! Available on iOS, Android and Windows 8 tablets

Chickenpox vaccine is the best way to protect you and your child from chickenpox. Also, when you get vaccinated, you protect others in your community. This is especially important for people who cannot get vaccinated, such as those with weakened immune systems and pregnant women.

Children should get the first dose of chickenpox vaccine when they are 12 through 15 months old and the second dose at age 4 through 6 years. People 13 years of age and older who have never had chickenpox should get two doses at least 28 days apart. If you or your child only got one dose in the past, check with your doctor about getting a second dose.

Two doses of chickenpox vaccine are very effective at preventing severe disease, complications, and death. You can still get chickenpox if you have been vaccinated. But, the symptoms are usually not as severe as chickenpox in unvaccinated people. They will have fewer blisters, little or no fever, and will recover from their rash more quickly.

Some people should wait to get vaccinated, such as pregnant women. Also, you should not get vaccinated at all if you have a severely weakened immune system. Learn more about who should not get chickenpox vaccine.

Chickenpox vaccine is safer than getting the disease. Make sure you and your children are protected.

If you have any questions about chickenpox or the vaccine, talk with your doctor.

Paying for Chickenpox Vaccine

Chickenpox Can Be Severe

Chickenpox can be severe for babies, adolescents, adults, pregnant women, and people with weakened immune systems. It can cause—

  • dehydration
  • pneumonia
  • bleeding problems
  • brain infection or inflammation
  • bacterial infections of the skin and soft tissues in children including Group A streptococcal infections
  • blood stream infections (sepsis)
  • toxic shock syndrome
  • bone infections
  • joint infections
  • death

Most health insurance plans cover the cost of vaccines. But, you may want to check with your insurance provider first. If you don't have insurance, or if your plan does not cover vaccines, the Vaccines for Children Program may be able to help. This program helps children who are eligible get the vaccines they need. The vaccines are provided at no cost to doctors who serve children who are eligible.

To learn more about chickenpox and vaccination, visit


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  • Page last reviewed: August 19, 2013
  • Page last updated: December 13, 2013 The U.S. Government's Official Web PortalDepartment of Health and Human Services
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