Chickenpox: vaccination and treatment

Chickenpox: vaccination and treatment

Chickenpox Vaccination

Vaccination against chickenpox has been available in Germany since 2004 and can be given to infants from the age of nine months. The chickenpox vaccination is usually given together with the vaccination against measles, mumps and rubella. The Standing Committee on Vaccination (STIKO) recommends vaccinating children for the first time at 11-14 months. The second chickenpox vaccination then takes place at 15-23 months. Vaccination is also possible later at any time and is particularly recommended for children and adolescents between the ages of nine and 17.


Despite vaccination, there is no guaranteed protection.

The vaccine is a weakened varicella-zoster virus against which the body develops antibodies after vaccination. Protection against chickenpox starts about three to five weeks after the vaccination. In individual cases, however, chickenpox can break out despite immunisation. Then, the disease usually takes a milder course.

In general, the chickenpox vaccination should not be carried out if there is an acute illness with fever or if the immune system is weakened for other reasons. It is also better not to be vaccinated during pregnancy. However, if you were accidentally vaccinated against chickenpox during pregnancy, do not panic: To date, there have been no known cases in which the vaccination has caused harm to the unborn child.

Chickenpox: treatment

In the case of chickenpox, the virus itself is not usually treated, only the symptoms it causes. The itching can be relieved by applying damp, cool compresses. Compresses soaked in chamomile tea also counteract the itching. Applying lotions and creams that contain zinc can also help. Conversely, ointments should not be used, as the airtight seal creates an ideal breeding ground for bacteria. A particularly severe itching can be alleviated by taking antihistamines.

Medication with the active ingredients paracetamol or ibuprofen should be used if you have a fever. Due to the side effects, agents with acetylsalicylic acid should never be used in children. Patients with a weak immune system can also be given an antiviral such as aciclovir, which inhibits virus replication.


Chickenpox and Shingles

Anyone who has had chickenpox is usually immune to the disease. But the viruses remain in the body even after the last patches of skin have healed: they withdraw into the spinal or cranial nerve ganglia. They can trigger shingles at a later point in time – usually in adulthood.

Around 20 per cent of people who carry the varicella-zoster virus in their bodies will develop shingles later in life because the viruses can be reactivated by stress or a weakened immune system. Anyone who has shingles can spread chickenpox to others, but not shingles. For this reason, sick people should avoid contact with pregnant women in particular.

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