Chickenpox Can Be Serious. Protect Yourself and Your Child.
Most children with chickenpox completely recover. But it can be serious, even deadly, for babies, adolescents, adults, and people with weakened immune systems. Get vaccinated if you are not protected against chickenpox.
Chickenpox is a very contagious disease. You or your child may be at risk if you have never had chickenpox or have never been vaccinated. Chickenpox causes a blister-like rash, itching, tiredness, and fever. This can make you feel very sick and 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.
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
Before there was a vaccine, chickenpox was common in the United States. Each year, about 4 million people got chickenpox. Between 10,500 and 13,000 people were hospitalized, and 100 to 150 people died because of chickenpox.
Most people who had severe chickenpox were healthy beforehand.
Read about a healthy teenager who got chickenpox and died.
Chickenpox Vaccine: Your Best Protection
- Children get the first dose of chickenpox vaccine at 12 through 15 months old and the second dose at age 4 through 6 years.
- People 13 years of age and older who are not immune (protected) to chickenpox or have never had the disease should get two doses of chickenpox vaccine 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.
Chickenpox Can Be Severe
Chickenpox can be severe for babies, adolescents, adults, pregnant women, and people with weakened immune systems. It can cause—
- 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
Two doses of chickenpox vaccine are very effective at preventing severe disease, complications, and death. Although rare, you can still get chickenpox if you have been vaccinated, but the symptoms are usually not as severe. This means you will have fewer blisters, little or no fever, and will recover more quickly. Chickenpox vaccine is safer than getting the disease. Make sure you and your children are protected.
Also, when you get vaccinated, you protect others in your community. This is especially important for people who cannot get vaccinated. Some people who cannot get the chickenpox vaccine include pregnant women and those with weakened immune systems. Learn more about who should not get chickenpox vaccine.
Paying for Chickenpox Vaccine
Most health insurance plans cover the cost of vaccines. However, you may want to check with your insurance provider before going to the doctor. Learn how to pay for vaccines.
If you don't have health insurance or if your insurance does not cover vaccines for your child, the Vaccines for Children (VFC) Program may be able to help. This program helps families of eligible children who might not otherwise have access to vaccines. To learn more, visit the VFC website or ask your child's doctor. You can also contact your state VFC coordinator.
If you have any questions about chickenpox or the vaccine, talk with your doctor.
To learn more about chickenpox and vaccination, visit
- CDC Chickenpox Website
- Chickenpox Fact Sheet for Parents [412 KB]
- Chickenpox Vaccination
- Chickenpox Vaccine Information Sheet (VIS)
- Varicella (Chickenpox): Unprotected Story [380 KB] – a mother's story about her 13-month-old child who had severe chickenpox
- Two Options for Protecting Your Child Against Measles, Mumps, Rubella, and Varicella
- CDC Podcast: Chickenpox – What You Need to Know [04:06:00 Minutes]
- Chickenpox-related Information for Travelers
- Page last reviewed: August 4, 2014
- Page last updated: August 4, 2014
- Content source:
- National Center for Immunization and Respiratory Diseases, Division of Viral Diseases
- Page maintained by: Office of the Associate Director for Communication, Digital Media Branch, Division of Public Affairs