Chickenpox: What Parents Should Know
Posted on 11/04/2022

Local schools are reporting a small number of chicken pox in the last few weeks. Here's what parents need to know:
Chickenpox is a common childhood illness that is highly contagious and continues to circulate among young children from time to time. It can cause itchy, blister-like rashes, among other symptoms. Prior to the availability of the vaccine, chickenpox disease could lead to severe complications such as:   

  • Bacterial infections of the skin, soft tissues, joints, or bloodstream (sepsis)
  • Dehydration
  •  Pneumonia
  •  Inflammation of the brain
  •  Toxic shock syndrome
  •  Reye's syndrome for people who take aspirin during chickenpox
  •  Birth defects when pregnant women are infected 

Children who are vaccinated and still contract the illnesses usually have very mild symptoms but can still spread the virus to others through close contact.   

Typical symptoms of chickenpox: 

  • Fever
  • Loss of appetite
  • Headache
  • Tiredness and a general feeling of being unwell
  • Raised pink or red bumps
  • Fluid-filled blisters
  • Crusts and scabs that cover the broken blisters

A person with chickenpox is considered contagious one to two days before the rash begins until the chickenpox lesions have scabbed. The rash can first appear on the chest, back and face, and then it can spread over the entire body. After exposure, it can take 10 to 21 days to develop symptoms from chickenpox.


What if your child has been exposed?

If your child has been exposed to chicken pox and is not vaccinated, your child will need to stay home from school for 21 days after the last case occurs or until your child receives a chickenpox vaccine, according to the OSPI school guidance. If your child is not up to date with their chickenpox vaccine, contact your child's medical provider to update their chickenpox vaccine.

If your child is up to date for their chickenpox vaccine, they may continue to go to school; however, continue to be vigilant for symptoms of chickenpox.
If these symptoms develop, please let the school know and keep your child at home until the pox (blisters) have scabbed over. If your child's symptoms become severe, reach out to your child's medical provider.


Who needs to get the chickenpox vaccination?
The chickenpox vaccine prevents almost all cases of severe illness. Since the chickenpox vaccination program began in the United States in 1995, hospitalizations and deaths due to chickenpox have become rare as cases have decreased by more than 97%
Children under the age of 13 years should get two doses:

  • First dose at age 12 through 15 months
  • Second dose at age 4 through 6 years (The second dose may be given at an earlier age if it is given at least three months after the first dose.)

People 13 years of age and older who have never had chickenpox or received the chickenpox vaccine should get two doses at least 28 days apart. Chickenpox vaccination is especially important for:

  • Healthcare professionals
  • People who care for or are around other people whose body is less able to fight germs and sickness (weakened immune system)
  • Teachers
  • Childcare workers
  • Residents and staff in nursing homes and other residential settings
  • College students
  • Inmates and staff of correctional institutions
  • Military personnel
  • Non-pregnant women of childbearing age
  • Adolescents and adults living with children
  • International travelers

For more information about chickenpox vaccine: Vaccination. 

Tips to prepare your children to get a vaccine: Before, During, and After Your Child's Shots | CDC 


What about "Chickenpox Parties"?

Don't take the risk! In the past, some parents have taken their children to "chickenpox parties" to intentionally expose their unvaccinated children to chickenpox, hoping they don't get the disease or build up their immunity. 
There is no way to tell if your child will experience severe symptoms. Chickenpox can be serious, and even in healthy children, it can lead to severe complications and even death. It is not worth taking the risk and exposing your child to someone with chickenpox. The best protection is to get a vaccination.