It happens to many of us at some point in our lives, usually when we’re young. You don’t feel very well for several days. What seems like a cold takes a turn for the worse when you wake up one day to find you’re covered in itchy red spots.

When you see those tell-tale spots, you know you’ve got it. Chickenpox! Don’t worry, though, you won’t be growing feathers any time soon.

The word “pox” is often used to mean “curse.” So were you cursed by a chicken? Not quite. Although the symptoms of chickenpox may seem like a curse, “pox” can also refer to skin breakouts like the kind you see on someone with chickenpox.

A virus called varicella zoster causes chickenpox. If you come down with chickenpox, you usually have symptoms that seem like a cold for a few days before the spots appear. The spots are actually a rash of tiny blisters. You may also have a fever or a stomachache.

After the rash appears, the tiny blisters — called vesicles — fill up with a clear liquid. The vesicles release chemicals into your skin that make it itch. Although the itching can drive you crazy, it’s actually a good sign, because it means your body is defending itself like it’s supposed to.

When you have chickenpox, the best thing you can do is get plenty of rest. Treat your symptoms like you would if you had a regular cold or the flu. And try not to scratch your rash!

Use anti-itch cream on your rash and avoid scratching as much as possible, because scratching can cause the rash to become infected and prolong your suffering! Your doctor might also recommend that you take a special medicine called an antihistamine that will help relieve the itching.

Thanks to advances in medicine, there’s actually a chickenpox vaccine available today. Many kids who get the vaccine never get chickenpox. Some still do, but their experience with chickenpox tends to be less severe than those who didn’t get the vaccine.

If you do come down with chickenpox, you may be quarantined for several days. That means your contact with other people will be severely limited, so that you don’t spread the virus to others. Chickenpox is very contagious, which means it’s easy to give to other people.

Unfortunately, chickenpox is most contagious during the first few days of being sick. That’s often before the tell-tale rash appears. So when you think you just have a cold, you could be spreading chickenpox to others!

54 Join the Discussion

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    • All of our Wonder Friends in Ms. Bayko’s class are lucky– at least you’ve gotten the chickenpox before! We hope everyone stays away from getting them again! :)

      Thanks for sharing your guesses with us… we can’t wait to Wonder with you tomorrow! Have a SUPER day using your imaginations! :)

  1. All my brothers and sisters have had the chicken pox. I have never had it because I got a vaccination when I was a baby. I thought today’s wonder was interesting! Thanks!

    • Hi there, Bryleigh– you’re lucky that you haven’t gotten those itchy chickenpox! We hope you stay nice and healthy, Wonder Friend! Thanks for visiting today! :)

  2. A long term side effect of Chicken Pox is the appearance of shingles in later life. The virus is believed to lie dormant in the Doral ganglia and is reactivated when stressed to affect various nerves with a painful rash over the nerves distribution. The Temporal and intercostal nerves are favorite targets.

    • Hi there, Dr. Caldwell! We’re so glad you shared some more information about Chickenpox with us today! All our Wonder Friends are lucky to have a great resource like you! :)

  3. We enjoyed learning more about the Chickenpox today, and we were wondering why the Chickenpox is called “chicken”pox?

    We think tomorrow we might get to wonder about a train or an eighteen wheeler, we know these two things can be really long.

    • We hope no one in Mrs. Karr’s class is itchy– we wouldn’t want our Wonder Friends to get the chickenpox! We Wonder if you can do some more research of your own about the origin of the name?! :)

      Thanks for sharing your SUPER guesses with us– it’s always so much fun to Wonder with all of you in Mrs. Karr’s class! :)

    • Oh, wow, Amy, you’re a champion! We hope that’s the end of the chickenpox for you! Thanks for WONDERing with us today– we hope you have a SUPER day! :)

  4. I was wrong about today’s wonder.
    I heard that if a young kid gets the chicken pox, their mom invites her friends over so their kids can get it. This is because you can only get chicken pox once, and it’s better to get it when you’re young.
    I think tomorrow’s wonder is about the longest word in the English dictionary: Pneumonoultramicroscopicsilicovolcanoconiosis.


    • Hi there, Emily– thanks for sharing your thoughts about our itchy Wonder today! :) We bet there are lots of families, neighbors and friends who have caught the chickenpox from one another! Unfortunately, many people have gotten the chickenpox more than once in their lives, but usually it happens at a young age. Thanks for commenting today, Wonder Friend! We can’t wait to find out if you’re right about tomorrow’s Wonder! :)

  5. We do not like chicken pox because it is very contagious. It makes you itchy and you have to stay at home and miss school. You might have to take medicine. The video was very funny and we REALLY liked the chicken! You can’t do much when you have to stay at home and you have lots of school work to make up!

    • We bet the chickenpox are not fun at all! We hope all the Tigers in 3rd grade are staying nice and healthy– and itch-free! We hope you all have a SUPER time WONDERing together today– keep up the WONDERful work! :)

  6. Thankfully only four people in our class have had the chickenpox. We think that it itches like poison ivy or mosquito bites. We are wondering what causes the chicken pox and how it got its name.

    • Yikes, we hope the WONDERful students at EPES Library are staying nice and healthy– and chickenpox free! We know that being itchy is no fun at all! :)

      We Wonder if you can do some research in your awesome library about the origin of the name “chickenpox”! We hope to Wonder with you soon! :)

  7. Dear Wonderopolis,

    We think tomorrow’s wonder might be about a python, plains/deserts, or space.

    We really enjoyed the video today, it is super funny. Only four of us have had the chickenpox. We hope the rest of us don’t get them though.

    Thank you for the wonders,
    Mrs. Witkowski’s 4th graders

    • We certainly hope our Wonder Friends in Mrs. Witkowski’s 4th grade class stay nice and healthy this season– and chickenpox-free! :)

      Thanks for WONDERing with us and using your AWESOME imaginations all day long– you ROCK! We will see you tomorrow to find out if your guesses are on target! Great job, Wonder Friends! :)

  8. We learned that you can spread chickenpox to other people. It can make you sick. They make you itch a lot and you shouldn’t scratch them! We certainly hope we don’t get it! Chicken Pox also comes in red blisters. We liked the video a lot. It was funny!

    • Hi there, Tigers in 2nd grade! We certainly hope you’re itch-free this season! Thanks for sharing all that you’ve learned with us today– we’re so proud of you! Have a WONDERful day! :)

  9. Dear Wonderopolis,
    I was wrong about today’s wonder. I never knew that you can only get chicken pox once. I’ve never had the chicken pox, because my family took shots for chicken pox.

    I think tomorrow’s wonder will be about giraffes, waterfalls, streams, or pythons.

    • Not to worry, Alexis, we are glad you’re here WONDERing with us today! We’re oh-so-glad you aren’t feeling itchy with chicken pox– we hope you stay nice and healthy!

      Thanks for sharing your super guesses with us, Alexis! :)

  10. Chicken pox I have never had

    I leaned that chicken pox means cures you can spread it.

    Your skin can brake out and get blisters.
    Have a great day!!

  11. When I was born my sisters all got the chicken pox. – Shannia

    When I was a baby I had chicken pox and they were really itchy. Mum said if i ever get them again they will be really bad! – Bi

    Can’t you only get the chicken pox once? – Nick

    Why are they called chicken pox? Do chickens have them? – Becky

    I had chicken pox when I was in kindergarten. – Nick

    • Our Wonder Friends in 2, 3 and 4 are full of Wonder today! We hope that those of you who haven’t gotten the chickenpox stay far away and don’t get them in the future! :)

      Unfortunately, some people have had chickenpox more than one time– usually one chickenpox is more mild than another. There is a great debate about the origin of the name “chickenpox”– some think they spots resemble pecks from a chicken, others believe it relates to chickpeas, which are small, circular beans.

      We hope you all have a SUPER day, Wonder Friends! :)

  12. We liked the Bawk-Bawk Chicken Pox video! We learned that if you have the red spots on you they stay for a long time and you can’t get them off. They can be really contagious! We learned that Chicken Pox can have liquid in the blisters. When you wake up, you might have Chicken Pox if you have had a fever or a cold.

    • We love our Wonder Friends, the Tigers in 1st Grade and Kindergarten; your enthusiasm is out-of-this-world AWESOME! Thanks for sharing all that you’ve learned about chickenpox today! We hope all of you stay nice and healthy… and just in case you see spots in the future, make sure you don’t scratch! :)

    • We hope you stay nice and healthy, Arereona! If you do, just remember not to scratch! We hope you stay itch-free, Wonder Friend! :)

    • We sure hope you stay far away from the chickenpox, Ellie! We have had them here at Wonderopolis– they’re not too bad, just very itchy! Make sure you’re washing your hands often– we hope you stay nice and healthy! :)

    • How right you are, Evelin! Thanks for sharing your comment about our itchy-scratchy-chickenpox Wonder! We think you’re doing a great job of WONDERing! :)

    • You’re a lucky duck, Skye! Some of our Wonder Friends were itchy for days, but they are all better now! We hope you stay nice and healthy this season– keep those hands clean! :)

    • Hi there, Jaryn, GREAT WONDER! The chickenpox are a type of virus… similar to getting a cold. You can “catch” the chickenpox when the virus is spread from one person to another. That’s why it’s SUPER important to cover your mouth when you sneeze and keep your hands nice and clean by using soap and water! Thanks for sharing your comment today! :)

    • Phew, you sure are lucky that you haven’t had those itchy chickenpox, Jon! We are also glad that you asked about shingles– nice work! Shingles is related to chickenpox, and it occurs mainly in adults. Shingles is a type of rash that comes from the same virus that causes chickenpox! Nice connection, Jon! We hope you have a SUPER day! :)

    • We Wonder if you’ve ever had the chick-bock chick-bock chickenpox, Erin? We hope you didn’t have to deal with itchy scratchy days in your pajamas! :)

    • Hehe, we think those two boys are pretty funny ourselves, Elsa! They’ve got energy even if they do have the chickenpox! :)

  13. Hi wonderopolis ,
    I really, really don’t want the chicken pox!!!!!!
    I was wondering when you would do a wonder on hippos!!!!!!!!!!!

    • We don’t want you to get those itchy, scratchy chicken pox either, Lauren101! We Wonder if you know anyone who has had the chicken pox, or if you have had them yourself?

      We are so happy that you shared your suggestion for a great Wonder– about hippos! We are going to start our hippo Wondering soon… can’t wait! :)

  14. I have never had the chickenpox! What am I saying I’m only 12? Is it true you can still get chickenpox?
    Sincerely Danielle :) :)

    • Oh boy, we hope you don’t get the itchy, scratchy chickenpox, Danielle! But in case you do, just remember to put lotion on them and keep your hands away from scratching! :)

    • YIKES, three people in your class have dealt with the chickenpox! We hope you stay itch-free, Lauren101! We are working on a hippo Wonder indeed, but it takes us a while to dream up a Wonder! :)

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Have you ever wondered…

  • Have you ever had chickenpox?
  • What causes chickenpox?
  • Is chickenpox contagious?

Wonder Gallery

sick boy with spots & red eyes shutterstock_4974949 (1)Vimeo Video

Try It Out

Even if you don’t have chickenpox right now, chances are you get itchy from time to time. Whether it’s bug bites or poison ivy, you probably have occasion to scratch an itch every now and then.

So what should you do? Scratch that itch? Nope! Use a lotion or a cream instead to relieve the itching. Your skin will thank you!

Here are some easy-to-make homemade itch remedies you can create at home to use whenever you get itchy:

Still Wondering

Explore Science NetLinks’ Viruses/Infectious Diseases: What’s Really Bugging You? lesson to learn more about viruses, what type of life forms they are, how they can be transmitted and how they affect humans.

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