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Early signs & symptoms of chicken pox

Updated February 21, 2019

Chicken pox is a highly-contagious illness common among children who have not been immunised against it. Chicken pox is caused by the varicella-zoster virus, and usually a person only gets the disease once. A very itchy rash is the primary symptom.

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Time Frame

Early symptoms of chicken pox typically appear between 10 and 21 days after an individual is exposed to the disease.


The first chicken pox symptom usually is a red, itchy rash appearing on the chest, abdomen, back and face. The rash consists of small red bumps that look like insect bites or pimples.


Sudden onset of fever is another initial symptom of chicken pox. Additional early signs may include dry cough, lack of appetite, malaise, stomach pain and headache.


The rash develops over 3 to 5 days, spreading all over the body, while other symptoms dissipate. The bumps become fluid-filled blisters that eventually break and crust over.


Symptoms usually resolve without treatment, but a doctor can prescribe medications to lessen the severity and discomfort of chicken pox, and prevent complications such as pneumonia.

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About the Author

Shelley Moore

Shelley Moore is a journalist and award-winning short-story writer. She specializes in writing about personal development, health, careers and personal finance. Moore has been published in "Family Circle" magazine and the "Milwaukee Sentinel" newspaper, along with numerous other national and regional magazines, daily and weekly newspapers and corporate publications. She has a Bachelor of Science in psychology.

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