Chickenpox: I thought you knew!

Something happens to you (or at least it happens to me) when you’ve been in health care for over 20 years. You sometimes assume that everybody knows at least the basics about certain illnesses. But every now and then, a situation arises that reminds you that everyone doesn’t necessarily know what you think they do. Turns out assumptions are almost never good! LOL!


  • What do you know about them?
  • Do you have to pick your child up from school when they appear?
  • What do they look like?
  • What do you do if you think your child has them?
  • How are they transmitted from person to person?
  • Should someone with chickenpox be kept away from everyone else until they’re gone?
  • Can a child who has received the varicella vaccine still get them?
  • Is the vaccine mandatory?

Chickenpox on a child’s back

I wrongly assumed that people knew the answers to most of those questions when my fully vaccinated kid got chickenpox last week. I was shocked at how much misinformation was out there in the world – and the vaccine-related myths being subscribed to by people I know. I felt lucky to be well informed about chickenpox and was grateful that my job has afforded me that information. More importantly though, I was moved to let all parents know the details about chickenpox – to empower everyone with the knowledge I assumed they already had. (Sorry – my bad!)

Here’s my personal top 10 of what I thought you fine peeps already knew (and as a parent, I was glad to know):

  1. Although a common childhood illness, complications from chickenpox can be serious so prevention is important. Varicella (chickenpox) is now on the list of mandatory immunizations prior to the start of school.
  2. Chickenpox tends to appear in the community in the end of winter/spring seasons.
  3. They look like a small blister (until they’re picked, and they will likely be picked because they’re itchy – then they look like a small scab).
  4. Best to not judge a book by its cover because the first few chickenpox you see may have already been picked, so you may not actually see anything like a fluid-filled  blister till day 2 or 3.
  5. If you suspect chickenpox, cut the child’s nails short so the bacteria and other junk under their nails doesn’t infect the blisters when they accidentally scratch in the night.
  6. If you think your child has them, call your health care provider and report them to your child’s school or child care setting.
  7. The most contagious period is the couple of days before the blisters appear – so, by the time you even see chickenpox, the proverbial horse is out of the barn as far as preventing the spread.  The fluid within the blisters can also infect others, but again; exposure already happened days earlier.
  8. The virus is transmitted through the droplets in the air after an infected person coughs or sneezes. If caught, it’ll show up in the next person a couple weeks later and start out like a cold but with a fever.
  9. There is no need to exclude a child from school or any other activity due to chickenpox as long as the child is feeling well and able to participate.
  10. Although the vaccine is very effective, it is possible for someone who has received the vaccine to get chickenpox (as was the situation with my kid) but the case is likely to be a very mild one. (We counted a grand total of 9 chickenpox!)

Now you know what I know. Bring on the vaccine!

Want to talk about chickenpox? To connect with us:

  • Leave us a comment below
  • Tweet with us @haltonparents
  • Email us at
  • Call the HaltonParents line for parenting information or to speak directly to a Public Health Nurse (every Monday to Friday from 8:30 a.m. to 4:30 p.m.) Simply dial 311 or 905-825-6000.

About this blogger:

Paula D’Orazio RN is a public health nurse with the Early Years Health Program at the Halton Region Health Department.  Wanna know more about her?  Read her blogs! She’ll tell ya!  (She kinda likes to talk.)


This entry was posted in Babies, Children & Tweens, Keeping Your Baby Safe, Keeping Your Child/Tween Safe, Keeping Your Teen Safe, Keeping Your Toddler & Preschooler Safe, Parenting, Parenting Your Toddler & Preschooler, Teens, Toddlers & Preschoolers and tagged , , , , , , , , , , . Bookmark the permalink.

1 Response to Chickenpox: I thought you knew!

  1. Pingback: Secondary drowning: I didn’t know | HaltonParents

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