How do you catch chickenpox?

If you’re not immune to chickenpox, you can easily catch it through close contact with someone who has it, such as: 

  • face-to-face contact, for example, having a conversation with someone who has chickenpox, or
  • being in the same room as someone who has chickenpox for at least 15 minutes

This is because the virus can spread through the air, in tiny droplets from an infected person.

Chickenpox can also be passed on by contact with the blisters that are caused by chickenpox and shingles.

Pregnant women, newborn babies and the immunocompromised

If you have chickenpox, you should avoid contact with certain groups until you’re no longer infectious. These include pregnant women, newborn babies and immunocompromised people, such as people with transplants or undergoing immunosuppressive therapy. Varicella zoster virus can cause severe disease in these groups.

How long is chickenpox infectious for?

Someone with chickenpox is infectious from about one to two days before the rash develops, until all the blisters have fully crusted over. This is usually five to six days after the start of the rash.

Further information:

Page last reviewed: 11/11/2013

Next review due: 10/11/2015