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You are here : 3-RX.com > Medical Encyclopedia > Surgeries and Procedures > Chickenpox Vaccine

Chickenpox Vaccine

Alternate Names : Varicella Vaccine

Overview & Description | Preparation & Expectations | Home Care and Complications

Doctors use the chickenpox vaccine to prevent chickenpox in children and adults. Vaccines contain weakened or dead forms of the germs that cause certain diseases. To fight these germs, the body's immune system creates antibodies. Antibodies are cells that attack foreign substances in the body. A vaccine causes the body to makes antibodies to the weakened germs in the vaccine. Some of these antibodies will stay in the body for long periods of time. How long they remain depends on which vaccine a person gets. If the person is later exposed to the disease, the antibodies multiply to fight it off.

Chickenpox is usually a childhood illness. But it can occur at any age. It is most common in children 6 to 12 years old. The illness usually lasts 4 to 5 days and causes mild symptoms. There is a rash with as many as 250 to 500 itchy bumps, called vesicles. Other symptoms are fatigue and a low-grade fever.

Chicken pox can cause serious, even fatal, complications. People who are at higher risk for these complications include:

  • teens and adults
  • children who are given aspirin
  • infants younger than age 1
  • newborns and premature babies whose mothers had chickenpox when they were born or have not had chickenpox
  • people with weakened immune systems
  • These serious complications include:

  • severe skin infections
  • scarring from the pox
  • pneumonia, which is an infection of the lungs
  • brain damage
  • death
  • The chickenpox vaccine protects against both these complications and the discomfort of mild symptoms. The vaccine can prevent chickenpox in most cases. Anyone who gets chickenpox despite receiving the vaccine usually has only a mild case.

    Who is a candidate for the procedure?

    The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, also known as CDC, is the U.S. government agency that makes recommendations about vaccinations. The CDC recommends that the chickenpox vaccine be given to children age 12 to 18 months , or to older children if they have not had chickenpox. Children under the age of 13 should be given one dose of the vaccine. Children who are at least 13 and have not had chickenpox should receive two doses of the vaccine. The doses should be given 4 to 8 weeks apart. Many schools, day care centers, and colleges require the vaccine or a report of a history of chickenpox before enrollment.

    Varicella vaccine is recommended for anyone in certain high-risk groups if they have not already had chickenpox. These high-risk groups include:

  • people who live or work where exposure to chickenpox is likely, such as teachers of young children, day care employees, and residents and staff in institutional settings
  • people who live or work where outbreaks of chickenpox can occur, such as college students, prison inmates and staff, and military staff
  • nonpregnant women of childbearing age
  • teens and adults living in households with children, since the children may pass chickenpox to them
  • A person in these high-risk groups should talk with his or her doctor about whether he or she should get the chickenpox vaccine. Other people who should consult with their doctors before receiving the vaccine include:

  • people with weakened immune systems, such as those who have HIV or cancer or who take medicines such as steroids or chemotherapy
  • people who are allergic to gelatin or the antibiotic neomycin
  • pregnant women
  • people who are currently ill
  • How is the procedure performed?

    The chickenpox vaccine is given by an injection into the muscle of the upper thigh or arm. This vaccination may be given at the same time as other vaccinations but in a different spot on the body.


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    Chickenpox Vaccine: Preparation & Expectations

    Author: Eileen McLaughlin, RN, BSN
    Reviewer: Melissa Sanders, PharmD
    Date Reviewed: 02/08/02

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