Varicella Vaccine: Care Instructions

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Your Care Instructions

The varicella vaccine protects you from getting infected with the varicella virus. Many people know this virus by the name chickenpox.

Chickenpox causes an itchy rash and red spots or blisters all over the body. It is most common in children. But most people will get it if they don't get the vaccine.

The vaccine is given as two separate shots. It's recommended for all children 12 months or older who have not had the virus yet. The first shot is given to children when they are 12 to 15 months old. The second one is usually given when a child is 4 to 6 years old.

In teens and adults, a chickenpox infection can be very serious. So it's important for children, teens, and adults to get the vaccine if they haven't had chickenpox yet. People 13 or older also get two shots. The second one is given at least 4 weeks after the first one.

The shots can make the arm sore. They can also make children fussy for a short time.

You or your child may get the chickenpox vaccine as its own shot. Or you may get an MMRV vaccine. It gives the varicella, measles, mumps, and rubella vaccine together in one shot.

Follow-up care is a key part of your treatment and safety. Be sure to make and go to all appointments, and call your doctor or nurse call line if you are having problems. It's also a good idea to know your test results and keep a list of the medicines you take.

How can you care for yourself at home?

  • Take an over-the-counter pain medicine, such as acetaminophen (Tylenol), ibuprofen (Advil, Motrin), or naproxen (Aleve), if your arm is sore. Be safe with medicines. Read and follow all instructions on the label.
  • Give acetaminophen (Tylenol) or ibuprofen (Advil, Motrin) to your child for pain or fussiness. Read and follow all instructions on the label. Do not give aspirin to anyone younger than 18. It has been linked to Reye syndrome, a serious illness.
  • Follow your doctor's advice about the amount of medicine to give your child.
  • Put ice or a cold pack on the sore area for 10 to 20 minutes at a time. Put a thin cloth between the ice and your skin.

When should you call for help?

Call 911 anytime you think you may need emergency care. For example, call if:

  • You or your child has severe problems breathing or swallowing.
  • You or your child has a seizure.

Call your doctor or nurse call line now or seek immediate medical care if:

  • You or your child gets hives.
  • You or your child has a high fever.
  • You or your child gets a rash.
  • You or your child has an unusual reaction after the shot.

Watch closely for changes in your or your child's health, and be sure to contact your doctor or nurse call line if you have any problems.

Where can you learn more?

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Current as of: November 10, 2016