Chickenpox - Symptoms 

Symptoms of chickenpox 

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The most commonly recognised chickenpox symptom is a spotty, blistering red rash that can cover the entire body.

However, even before the rash appears, you or your child may have some mild flu-like symptoms, including:

  • feeling sick
  • a high temperature (fever) of 38C (100.4F) or over
  • aching, painful muscles
  • headache
  • generally feeling unwell
  • loss of appetite

These flu-like symptoms, especially the fever, tend to be more common and worse in adults than in children.

Chickenpox spots

Soon after the flu-like symptoms, an itchy rash appears. Some children and adults may only have a few spots, but others are covered from head to toe.

The spots normally appear in clusters and tend to be:

  • behind the ears
  • on the face
  • over the scalp
  • on the chest and belly
  • on the arms and legs

However, the spots can be anywhere on the body, even inside the ears and mouth, on the palms of the hands, soles of the feet and inside the nappy area.

Although the rash starts as small, itchy red spots, these develop a blister on top and become intensely itchy after about 12-14 hours.

After a day or two, the fluid in the blisters gets cloudy and they begin to dry out and crust over.

After one to two weeks, the crusting skin will fall off naturally.

New spots can keep appearing in waves for three to five days after the rash begins. Therefore, different clusters of spots may be at different stages of blistering or drying out. 

Read more about how to ease the itchiness and other symptoms of chickenpox in our section on chickenpox treatments.

Find out what you can do to stop chickenpox spreading.

Unusual symptoms

Most healthy children (and adults) recover from chickenpox with no lasting ill-effects simply by resting, just as with a cold or the flu.

However, some children and adults are unlucky and have a more severe bout.

Contact your GP straight away if you or your child develop any abnormal symptoms, such as:

  • the skin surrounding the blisters becoming red and painful 
  • pain in the chest or difficulty breathing
  • signs of dehydration, such as fewer wet nappies, drowsiness and cold hands and feet

In cases such as this, prescription medicine or hospital treatment may be needed.

Read more about chickenpox complications.

Page last reviewed: 28/07/2014

Next review due: 28/07/2016


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The 18 comments posted are personal views. Any information they give has not been checked and may not be accurate.

danmorle1 said on 27 March 2013

My son is 3 and he got them 10 days ago and although spotty not in much distress.
My Daughter also 3 has now got them too, she is ok, so why am I writing? Simple both me and the wife who have both had chicken pox show all the signes of having the pox bit no real spots.
Really dry cough
stomach pain
loss of appatite
Aches everywhere
pounding head ach
and a lovely tempteture of 102 to 104 for the last 6 days!!
Been to docs, I have laringitus and the mrs has chest infection but wow never been so ill.
Have we got chicken pox? can adults get it again and not have the spots?

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kais said on 26 December 2012

If this help, although it is not confirmed medically, I have 3 children 1,2 and 4 and they all had spots no blisters the first time they caught the chickenpox! My eldest has had them 4 times, the 1st 3 times were in preschool and within weeks of each other. She only had them on her back. This year my youngest caught them he had spots no blisters and then gave them to my eldest who ended up covered head to toe in blisters. Then my middle one caught them and all she had was 2 spots not blisters on the inside of her leg. My eldest had cleared up 2 weeks ago and last week my 2 younger ones caught them again. This time they both had blisters. I found the spots weren't itchy for them and they were generally well but the blisters bothered them alot and they have been very ill this time. With the spots I found they only had them in one place torso for 2 of them and the other one just had spots on leg like I said before. The blisters started under the armpits and then spread everywhere including eyes ears nose mouth and even in there genitals.

As I mentioned at the start the link hasn't been confirmed by a doctor but all cases were diagnosed by one (and that's alot of trips to the doctors lol). All children are different so his antibodies may fight the chickenpox differently but it isn't uncommon for them to catch them more then once. I hope this helps a bit!!

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mimi86 said on 21 December 2012

my sons daycare had an out break of the chickenpox and was confirmed that he has the chickenpox, my son has all the symptoms including the red spots but they are not 1 bit itchy and he has had the spots for 24 hrs but they do not seem to be filling up, and at times the spots seem to get smaller and then at times they look bigger, this is confusing, is this common?

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claireb79 said on 16 March 2012

Hi my 6 year old has got chicken pox the spots came out on wed 14th march, so i was wondering is it likely my 3 year old will get it and when will it come out??? im just concerened cuz we are meant to be flying to florida on the 2nd April, any advice would be great x

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Mshort said on 17 February 2012

My Daughter is completely covered with spots and is very poorly with it. My nan told me that if you give them a bath with neat peppermint oil in it this will take away the itching. As camamile lotion did not seem to do much good i went and got some this morning. It worked a treat! I would thoroughly recommend it.

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emmahatton said on 24 June 2011

my son is 14 months old his only got them on his arms and legs will they break out anywhere else and if yes when roughly

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phangsri said on 15 April 2011

My son was the first victim, he's nearly 2 and didn't get many fluid filled blisters. He didn't have any fever too and a week later after all his rash has formed a scab, my little 7 months old break out with the rash every where on her body. Now I've got it too but what I don't get is why is it I didn't start out with lots of red dots instead I've got few big itchy spot, one on my chest and a few on my back and I had it for three days and no other rash has appeared and no sign of blistred spots either unlike my two kids. We caught it off one of my rellative whilst we were in Thailand and 2 weeks later we all have it. It shows how easy it is to catch this virus. I don't know if I had it as a kid but if I had it before I heard that it'll be shingles which I would get later on. I've been drinking aloe vera juice, don't know if that couyld be the reason why I don't get lots of blisters on my body? I just felt tired and no sighn of a fever at this stage. Lets hope it stay like this!

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amberlh said on 13 April 2011

How long does it take for the spots to appear? my daughter has an out break at her preschool and has had the flu symptoms for a week. I am hoping that it is chicken pox and not just flu.

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amberlh said on 13 April 2011

My daughters pre school has an out break of chicken pox at the moment and she has has a flu/cold for roughly a week now. I was just wondering how long it takes for the spots to emerge if it is chicken pox? I am really hoping it is chicken pox, although I am having the same symptoms too!!!

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amberlh said on 13 April 2011

My daughters pre school has an out break of chicken pox at the moment and she has has a flu/cold for roughly a week now. I was just wondering how long it takes for the spots to emerge if it is chicken pox? I am really hoping it is chicken pox, although I am having the same symptoms too!!!

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jojobehan said on 28 March 2011

I had my daughter at 24 weeks gestation, she is now 9 years old and is in the mists of suffering from chickenpox for the 4th time. Although i'm not 100% certain that the 1st time was correctly diagnosed by the doctor- all '3' previous episodes were mild with a small number of spots, this time she is well and truely covered in spots from the tip of her head to the soles of her feet, not leaving out the spots in between her fingers and toes.

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chrissie42 said on 24 February 2011

I had a friend of my wife come 3 days ago and i noticed straight away that her little girl had the tel-tail signs of the dreded chickenpox. i was quite worruied as our 4 month old boy has had heart surgery for a heart defect. this has made him prone to infections or at least he gets them harder than others hence my taking to looking it up on here.
i had them at the age of 4. i didn't have a great number of them but the one's i did have were the size of a 20p peace' i know they were cos i still have the scars to proov I also had a little less known illness called scarlet feaver at the same time. this was because we lived in the old victorian slums of south London and all of them were due to be taken down as the drains had collapsed. The two conbined illnesses nearly killed me but then at least ive never had the shingles part toutch wood.

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edross03 said on 21 January 2011

My daughter had it 2 weeks ago, she got it from other kids at the nursery, my son got it on monday. Chicken pox it's much worst when it's caught from a sibling. my daughter had few spots but my son is covered, front, back, head, face, nose, ears, eyelids, genitals, legs, feet, arms, fingers it's really everywhere and it's really bad for him. Make sure you cut their nails especially if they are little, my son is 19 months we tell him not to scratch himself but its not easy ,whilst my daughter is 3 and she understood better even if she did pick and scratch few of them. They will leave a scar if this happens.... Both my kids got high temperature with it as well above 38.5 so don’t be surprised and prepare yourself for couple of sleepless nights. Not all spots turn into blisters. Kids are contagious from 2 days before the spots appear until 3-4 days the last spot turn into a blister and crust over. Incubating period is 15-20 days. Spots may keep on appearing even when others are already healing.I did not use calamine as in my opinion its not the best to use when it dries it has a powdery consistency to it which can actually get into the burst spots and cause infections. When I bath them I have added oatwheat powder from Aveeno (can be ordered from your local chemist) or bicarbonate of soda will hel too. Along with that I have given them Piriton syrup especially at night it helps them sleep better. Last but not least I have been using 2 itching relief remedies ViraSoothe, chickenpox Relief cooling gel and, or Pox Clin Cool mousse they can be ordered from your local pharmacy or boots and the cost between £.8.00 to £ 11.00 . It will not be easy to see your kids in pain and discomfort and unfortunately this time you won’t be able to kiss them better but be strong for them and with all the above and lots of cuddles you will make them more comfortable. Hope I have been able to provide some more information to other mums.

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meleon said on 10 October 2010

This is my daughter's second time with chicken pox last time was mild. But this time she has them mostly in her scalp and genital area with a few around her chest and back.

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MrsBex said on 04 May 2010

My 5yr old daughter had tummy ache and sickness on thursday, by sunday the spots were appearing. She has lost her appetite and is feeling sad. Calamine works on the itching. Lots of love and big cuddles help. Thank goodness I'm immune. Problem is with my work, when can I leave her with family and am I a carrier. I don't want to pass it on to a pregnant colleague.

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krowe said on 26 March 2010

Chicken pox can cover any surface of the body even private parts. don't worry if there is no mention of this, usually it will start with one big blister. some people can have a few spots others can be covered literally from head to toe.

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bcoles said on 15 January 2010

My son has them on his back it is common

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gavjam said on 10 January 2010

My son has them on his back but there is no mention of this ?

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