Childhood Diseases

Updated 10 March 2016

Risk factors for chickenpox

The highest risk for contracting chickenpox is associated with living in the same household as a person with the disease.


Face-to-face exposure to someone with early chickenpox will put you at risk of infection. Even spending some time in the same room as a person with early chickenpox will put you at risk.

The highest risk is associated with living in the same household as a person with chickenpox. Nine out of 10 people who have not had chickenpox before will contract the disease under these circumstances.

Generally children are least likely to have complications from chickenpox. Babies under one year old are more vulnerable, and from puberty onwards teenagers and adults are more prone to severe chickenpox and its complications.

Certain groups of people are particularly at risk for severe chickenpox. Children and adults whose immune systems are compromised are at particular risk.

Examples of conditions that compromise the immune system include various forms of cancer, leukaemia, lymphoma and HIV/Aids.

Some drugs, such as high doses of cortisone used for severe asthma, arthritis or kidney diseases may compromise the immune system.

Immune-compromised people are prone to an extensive and severe rash, possible damage to internal organs, including pneumonia or hepatitis, to haemorrhagic chickenpox and to a prolonged course of the illness. Chickenpox may even be fatal in immune-compromised people.

Read more: 

Preventing chickenpox 

Symptoms of chickenpox 

Diagnosing chickenpox

Revised and reviewed by Prof Eugene Weinberg, Paediatrician and Paediatric Allergist, Health24 expert, February 2015.


Ask the Expert


Prof Eugene Weinberg worked in the Paediatrics Department of the Red Cross Children’s Hospital for many years. He is presently a paediatric allergist at the Allergy Diagnostic Unit of the UCT Lung Institute in Mowbray.

Still have a question?

Get free advice from our panel of experts

The information provided does not constitute a diagnosis of your condition. You should consult a medical practitioner or other appropriate health care professional for a physical exmanication, diagnosis and formal advice. Health24 and the expert accept no responsibility or liability for any damage or personal harm you may suffer resulting from making use of this content.

* You must accept our condition

Forum Rules