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How do you catch chickenpox?

Page last updated 09 April 2020

Chickenpox is highly contagious and can be spread by being in close contact with someone who has chickenpox.

  • Skin to skin contact with someone who has chickenpox, specifically from the fluid-filled blisters  
  • By breathing in air droplets from a sneeze or cough
  • Infected surfaces that an ill person has touched 

As chickenpox and shingles are caused by the same virus, you can also catch chickenpox from people with shingles if you touch or breathe in particles from shingles blisters.

A person with the chickenpox is generally contagious from the beginning of the illness (up to 2 days before the spots appear) until about 5 days after the first spots appear. So long as there are no new blisters or moist crusts on spots, the person will not be contagious even if there are still crusts on the skin. 
You should always practice good health habits to avoid spreading the illness, such as:

  • Avoid contact with people until the spots has healed and you feel better
  • Wash hands regularly
  • Cover your mouth when you cough

Sources & Citations

1. Australian Government, Department of Health. The Australian Immunisation Handbook. Varicella. Available at: (accessed 20 February 2020).

4. Victoria State Government. Better Health Channel. Chickenpox. Available at: (accessed 20 May 2018).

5. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. Chickenpox (varicella) transmission. Available at: (accessed 16 April 2018).

6. Australian Government, Department of Health. Chickenpox (varicella). Available at: (accessed 21 February 2020).

SPANZ.SAPAS.18.04.0139(1)a - Date of preparation February 2020