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Risk Factors for Chickenpox

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A risk factor is something that increases your likelihood of getting a disease or condition.

It is possible to develop chickenpox with or without some of the risk factors listed below. However, the more risk factors you have, the greater your likelihood of developing chickenpox. If you have a number of risk factors, ask your doctor what you can do to reduce your risk.

If you are not immune to chickenpox, factors that will increase your risk of contracting the disease include:

  • Coming in direct contact with someone infected with chickenpox or shingles
  • Sharing eating utensils or other personal items with someone who has chickenpox

Some populations are at a higher risk for chickenpox, these include:

  • Persons of any age who have neither had chickenpox in the past nor been immunized against chickenpox
  • Newborns, especially those born prematurely, under 1 month old, or whose mothers had never contracted chickenpox prior to pregnancy
  • People with a weakened immune system
  • People with cancer
  • Pregnant women
  • People who are taking immunosuppressant drugs
  • People who are moderately or severely ill and are not yet fully recovered
  • People who have certain disorders affecting the blood, bone marrow, or lymphatic system

If you are not immune to chickenpox, traveling abroad can increase your risk of contracting chickenpox. The disease is much more prevalent outside the United States due to much lower rates of vaccination.

Revision Information

  • Reviewer: David Horn, MD
  • Review Date: 05/2014 -
  • Update Date: 05/28/2014 -
  • Chickenpox (varicella). Centers for Disease Control and Prevention website. Available at: http://www.cdc.gov/chickenpox/ . Updated April 25, 2013. Accessed May 30, 2013.

  • Daley AJ, Thorpe S, Garland SM: Varicella and the pregnant woman: prevention and management. Aust N Z J Obstet Gynaecol . 2008;48:26-33.

  • Weller TH. Varicella: historical perspective and clinical overview. J Infect Dis . 1996;174(Suppl):S306-309.