What Are Some Common Symptoms of Chickenpox?

Medically Reviewed by Carolin Schneider, MD

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Chickenpox, a common childhood illness, is caused by the varicella zoster virus. You likely know it for the characteristic red, itchy rash it causes. Chickenpox most often affects children. However, it can infect adolescents and adults, too.

Chickenpox is highly contagious. The virus can spread via respiratory droplets that you emit by coughing or sneezing. Direct skin-to-skin contact can also transmit chickenpox. Once the virus has spread, it causes a red, blistering, widespread rash that can be quite painful.

The rashes generally appear within one to two weeks after exposure. However, you'll be contagious for several days before the rash appears. Typically, the rash chickenpox causes will resolve within one week. It's important that, if you have an active chickenpox rash, you quarantine away from people who haven't been infected with varicella zoster before. The virus can be more harmful to adults compared to children. You'll also want to look out for these symptoms, which may appear slightly before or at the same time that the chickenpox rash develops.