Symptoms of Chickenpox
The time between exposure to the virus and eruption of symptoms is called the incubation period. For chickenpox, this period is 10 - 20 days. The patient often develops fever, headache, swollen glands, and other flu-like symptoms before the typical rash appears. While fevers are low grade in most children, some can reach 105 °F.
These symptoms subside once the rash breaks out. One or more tiny raised red bumps appear first, most often on the face, chest, or abdomen. They become larger within a few hours and spread quickly (sprout), eventually forming small blisters on a red base. The numbers of blisters vary widely. Some patients have only a few spots, others can develop hundreds. Each blister is filled with clear fluid that becomes cloudy in several days.
It takes about 4 days for each blister to dry out and form a scab. During its course, the rash itches, sometimes severely. Usually separate crops of blisters occur over 4 - 7 days, the entire disease process lasting 7 - 10 days.
Symptoms of Shingles
Shingles nearly always occurs in adults. Usually two, and sometimes three, identifiable symptom stages occur:
Prodrome. In the prodrome phase, a cluster of warning symptoms appear 3 - 4 days before the outbreak of the infection. These symptoms range from general feelings of malaise (chills, fever, nausea, muscle aches) to abnormal sensations such as tingling, itching, burning, or a feeling of “pins and needles” accompanied by deep pain. The skin may be unbearably sensitive to touch.
Review Date: 05/03/2011
Reviewed By: Harvey Simon, MD, Editor-in-Chief, Associate Professor of Medicine, Harvard Medical School; Physician, Massachusetts General Hospital. Also reviewed by David Zieve, MD, MHA, Medical Director, A.D.A.M., Inc.