How do you catch chickenpox?

Information written and reviewed by Certified Doctors.

Chickenpox is spread in the droplets an infected person breathes, sneezes or coughs out, and in the fluid in the blisters on their skin.

It's highly contagious and can easily be caught through close contact with someone who has it, including through:

  • face-to-face contact, such as having a conversation with someone who has chickenpox
  • being in the same room as someone who has chickenpox, usually for at least 15 minutes
  • touching the blisters
  • contact with items that have recently been contaminated with infected fluid or droplets, such as bedding and clothing

Chickenpox can also be caught by touching the rash caused by shingles.

Someone with chickenpox is infectious from about one to two days before the rash develops, until all the blisters have fully crusted over.

Can I get chickenpox more than once?

Yes, it is possible to get chickenpox more than once, but this is extremely rare.

Most people who have had chickenpox won't get it again because they're immune to it for life.

However, some people who have had chickenpox will develop a related condition called shingles later on. This is caused by the chickenpox virus being reactivated, usually several decades later.

How are chickenpox and shingles connected?

Chickenpox and shingles are both caused by the same virus: the varicella-zoster virus.

In some people who have had chickenpox, the virus can become active again later in life and cause shingles.

You can't catch shingles from someone else. However, you can catch chickenpox from someone with shingles if you haven't had chickenpox before.

Read more about chickenpox and shingles.

Content supplied by NHS Choices