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Reducing Your Risk of Chickenpox

If you have already had chickenpox, you have developed immunity to it and are unlikely to get it a second time. However, since the chickenpox virus remains in the body and hides in spinal nerve cells, some adults will develop a recurrence of chickenpox known has herpes zoster or shingles .
To avoid getting chickenpox, you should:
  1. Avoid contact with people who have it or who have shingles.
  2. Avoid sharing personal items with people infected with the virus.
  3. Get a chickenpox vaccination .

Chickenpox Vaccine

The chickenpox vaccine is a series of two injections. It is routinely given to children at ages:
  • 12-15 months
  • 4-6 years
Children who have not been vaccinated and have not been exposed to chickenpox can also receive the series.
In addition, the vaccine should be given to adults who do not have immunity to chickenpox. Talk to your doctor. If you have certain conditions, you will not be able to have this vaccine.
The vaccine can also reduce your risk of infection if given within three days of exposure to chicken pox.

Immune Globulin

If you are unable to receive the varicella vaccine, you might be able to receive varicella-zoster immune globulin. Immune globulin is a blood product that contains antibodies to the chickenpox virus.
For prevention, immune globulin is given by injection immediately after exposure to the VZV virus (within 96 hours). It is usually only given to people who are at unusually high risk for severe complications from the disease. These may include:
  • Adults, including pregnant women
  • Newborns whose mothers have chickenpox
  • People who are immunosuppressed or very ill

Preventing the Spread of Chickenpox

If someone in your household gets chickenpox, you can prevent it from spreading by:
  • Keeping them isolated until the disease runs its course and all blisters have crusted over
  • Informing others who have been in recent contact with your child that they may have been exposed to chickenpox

References

Baker CJ, Pickerling LK, et al. Advisory Committee on Immunization Practices. Recommended adult immunization schedule: United States, 2011. Ann Intern Med . 2011;154(3):168-173.

Chickenpox. American Academy of Family Physicians website. Available at: http://familydoctor.org/familydoctor/en/diseases-conditions/chickenpox.html . Updated May 2010. Accessed May 30, 2013.

Chickenpox (varicella). Centers for Disease Control and Prevention website. Available at: http://www.cdc.gov/chickenpox . Updated April 25, 2013. Accessed May 30, 2013.

Varicella. EBSCO DynaMed website. Available at: https://dynamed.ebscohost.com/about/about-us . Updated April 13, 2013. Accessed May 30, 2013.

Revision Information

  • Reviewer: David Horn, MD
  • Review Date: 05/2014
  • Update Date: 05/28/2014
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