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Stages of Chicken Pox

author image Robin Hewitt
Robin Hewitt began her writing career in 2008. She is the coauthor of several books, including "The Joyous Gift of Grandparenting," which covers the nutritional and fitness needs of both grandchildren and grandparents.
Stages of Chicken Pox
Portrait of a sick girl with chickenpox. Photo Credit: Artfoliophoto/iStock/Getty Images

Chicken pox was once considered one of the trials of childhood, but since 1980 it has become less prevalent due to the development of a vaccine. Spread through coughing, sneezing or direct contact, symptoms of the disease do not appear until 10 to 21 days after exposure. According to the Mayo Clinic, there are three stages of the chicken pox disease. Since the pox goes through all stages within 24 hours, once the rash begins to appear the patient will have all three stages at the same time.

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Starting typically on the head and back, the chicken pox first shows as a rash of small red or pink bumps that can quickly spread to the entire body (including eyelids, mouth and genitals). New areas of rash will continue to appear for four to five days, and will overlap other stages of the disease. The rash may be accompanied (or preceded) by loss of appetite, abdominal pain, fever, irritability and headache.


Each bump of the chicken pox rash will form a thin-walled blister, which is filled with clear fluid. Called vesicles, the clear fluid will turn cloudy as this stage of the disease progresses. If occurring in the mouth or genitals, the rash may form an open sore rather than a blister. Note that since new areas of rash will continue to appear, all stages will be present at the same time.


Blisters will quickly crust over and form a scab, which typically has a dry brown crust on top. Note that the primary complication of chicken pox is bacterial infection, and the patient is most susceptible to infection during this stage when there are open sores on the body. If any scab begins to drain yellow pus or is over 10 mm (the size of a dime), seek medical attention.

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